Santa Cruz, California, USA
Joby Aviation in Santa Cruz, California aims to leverage Distributed Electric Propulsion experience it gained with the NASA Leading Edge Asynchronous Propellers Technology (LEAPTech) demonstration to fly its S4 personal VTOL aircraft. [LEAPTech ground-tested 18 electric propellers on the leading edge of a wing attached to a truck. Now, Joby is working on the design and construction of the optimized wing, motors and propellers that will fly in 2018 on the all-electric X-57, built under NASA’s Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology Operations Research (SCEPTOR). Replacing the wing on a Tecnam P2006T aircraft, the X-57 “Maxwell” uses 14 electric motors driving propellers mounted on the leading edges of the wing.]
The Joby S4 is a four-seat Distributed Electric Propulsion aircraft with 6 tilting/folding propellers. Joby stated that they began flying the prototype in 2017, but the company declined to provide an update of its activities until Feb. 1, 2018, when Bloomberg Businessweek described thusly:
The pilot managed a vertical takeoff, 15 minutes of flight in a 15-mile loop, and a safe landing. Powered by electric motors and sophisticated control software, the taxi performs like a cross between a drone and a small plane, able to zip straight up on takeoff and then fly at twice the speed of a helicopter while making about as much noise as a swarm of superbees.
The aircraft has been granted permission to operate above the Joby Aviation California facilities, as well as interim access to R-2513 airspace above Fort Hunter Liggett. Except for a few computer images of the S4 presented at the 2nd Annual AHS Transformative Vertical Flight Workshop, held at NASA Ames, not much of the S4 has been revealed:
According to the FAA Aircraft Registry, the aircraft has the registration N541JA, and the model number is JAS4-101 and the serial number is JAS4-1 (Joby Aircraft S4, aircraft number 1).
Previously, Joby had studied the two-seat S2 eVTOL, which was similar in basic configuration, but used 16 propellers that could tilt and/or fold.
Joby was initially funded by JoeBen Bevirt, Paul Sciarra and others. Series A and Series B investments have now reached $130M. In January of 2017, Joby Aviation received $970,000 from the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a Pentagon organization that focuses on implementing cutting-edge technology into the U.S. Military.
Joby was honored in May 2018 with the Vertical Flight Society’s Paul E. Haueter Award, given for an outstanding technical contribution to the field of VTOL aircraft development other than a helicopter or an operational vertical flight aircraft. The 2018 Haueter Award was awarded to JoeBen Bevirt, the founder and chief executive oﬃcer of Joby Aviation Inc., for successfully demonstrating the world’s first high-speed multi-passenger electric VTOL aircraft.
First Flight: Early 2017
Capacity: 4 Passengers
Propulsor: 6 Folding Propellers
Power: Lithium-nickel-cobalt-manganese-oxide batteries
Range: 150 miles (246.4 km)
Wingspan: 35 ft (10.7 m)
Length: 24 ft (7.3 m)
Max Speed: over 140 mph (225.3 km)
- Press release: The Next Phase at Joby, Feb 1, 2018
- Press release: Joby Aviation Secures $100M in Series B Funding, Feb 1, 2018
- Article: Ready for liftoff? Two flying taxi startups got Pentagon funding, The Guardian, July 10, 2018
- Article: Air-Taxi Startup Joby Has a Working Prototype and a Fresh $100M, Bloomberg, Feb 1, 2018
- Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, March 2017
- Article: The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Vertiflite, January 2017
- Article: Lift Where You Need It, Vertiflite, November 1, 2016
- Article: The Joby S2 VTOL Concept, Vertiflite,
- Article: AHS International Leads Transformative Vertical Flight Initiative, eVTOL News, November 1, 2014