Santa Cruz, California, USA
Founded in 2009, Joby Aviation is a venture-backed startup aerospace company is located in Santa Cruz and San Carlos, California (USA), that is developing and will manufacture piloted all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for fast, quiet, and affordable air taxi services. As of January 2020, the company has reported they have around 400 employees and their website shows a long list of job openings.
The company combines elements of helicopters and small airplanes, offering benefits that include high reliability, zero emissions, fast flight speeds, quiet operations, lower operating costs, lower costs of maintenance, and enhanced safety features.
Joby Aviation has been relatively secret with its S4 aircraft. It is believed to be a continuation of the Joby S2 design. Some few computer images of the S4 were presented at the 2nd Annual AHS Transformative Vertical Flight Workshop held at the NASA Ames Research Center in August 2015. At the 2019 Vertical Flight Society’s sixth annual eVTOL Symposium Joby revealed additional information and initial performance details of test flights of scale and full-sized demonstrators. On January 15, 2020, they revealed full scale pictures of their S4 eVTOL aircraft (see above and directly below) and additional specifications about their aircraft, the use of the aircraft and their company.
Joby Aviation's S4 is a five (5) seat eVTOL (1 pilot and 4 passengers) vectored-thrust aircraft using six (6) tilting propellers which are located on both a 35 ft (10.7 m) fixed wing and its V-tail. Four (4) propellers tilt vertically including its entire motor nacelle, and two (2) of the propellers tilt vertically with a linkage mechanism. The aircraft has as very modern and futuristic design with large windows for spectacular views and has a tricycle-type retractable wheeled landing gear. The company reports their aircraft is 100 times quieter than a helicopter during takeoff and landing with a near-silent flyover.
A Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) System (leveraged by NASA’s LEAPTech demonstrations) can take the aircraft to speeds of 200 mph (322 km/h) which are powered by lithium-nickel-cobalt-manganese-oxide batteries, providing a range of 150 miles (241 km). The vehicle employs a unified flight control system to reduce pilot workload during the conversion to and from VTOL to horizontal flight mode.
Joby S4 eVTOL aircraft, Jan. 15, 2020.
DEP on eVTOL aircraft provide multiple advantages, including greater stability of the aircraft in regular and gusty wind conditions, a much quieter aircraft, no emissions, lower weight, higher reliability, lower cost to operate, more compact, higher efficiency, no start-up or shut-down delay, and safety through redundancy for its passengers. If one (1) or two (2) motors or propellers fail, the other working propellers can safely land the aircraft.
"In a demonstration for Bloomberg News, the S4 completed a piloted test flight that included a vertical takeoff, 15 minutes of flight along a 15 mile (24.1 km) course, and a controlled landing." The flight took place in early 2017.
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 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.
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). The test vehicle is named Rachel. A second aircraft was registered as N542AJ in August 2019 with model JAS4-2 and serial number JAS4-201.
Joby was initially funded by JoeBen Bevirt, Paul Sciarra and others. Series A and Series B investments reached $130 million USD in 2018. In January of 2017, Joby Aviation received $970,000.00 USD from the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a Pentagon organization that focuses on implementing cutting-edge technology into the U.S. Military. Joby’s efforts are backed by at least five large investors (Capricorn Investment Group, Intel Capital, JetBlue Technology Ventures, and Toyota AI Ventures). On Jan. 15, 2020, it was announced that Toyota provided Joby Aviation with $394 million USD in funding, bringing the total money raised so far for the company, to a grand total of $720 million USD.
On Dec. 20, 2019, Uber announced that the company had signed a multi-year commercial partnership with Joby Aviation to launch a fast, reliable, clean and affordable urban air taxi service in select markets. Joby will supply and operate the electric air taxis, and Uber will provide airspace support services, skyport infrastructure, connections to ground transportation and customer interfaces through its aerial rideshare network. With this agreement, Joby Aviation becomes the first partner in Uber’s Elevate initiative with a committed timetable to deploy air taxi services by 2023. The company expects the cost per trip, over time, to be in the similar price range of ground transportation.
At the VFS 6th Annual Electric VTOL Symposium on Jan. 29, 2019, Joby noted that the company had "Successfully flown sub-scale and full scale demonstrators" and provided the following details on the S4:
- Safety assurance in excess of CS-23 cert requirements
- Unified flight control – extremely simple vehicle operations (SVO)
- All electric CTOL/VTOL
- 200 mph cruise speed (322 km/h)
- 150 mile range (241 km)
- 100 times quieter than a helicopter
Joby plans on continuing to make prototype aircraft in Marina, California, USA and will use Toyota production facilities to mass produce the aircraft. The company is expecting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), USA, to provide certification for their aircraft by 2022 and expect the public to ride-share their aircraft in 2023. The company is also seeking certification for their aircraft in countries around the world. The aircraft will be used for on-demand urban air mobility (UAM), an air taxi, and the aircraft will not be for sale to the consumer.
On Jan. 16, 2020, it was reported by the Monterey County Weekly that an estimated 1,600 high-paying tech jobs could be hired by Joby. Joby Aviation plans to build an eVTOL manufacturing plant in the city of Marina, California (USA), which will ultimately be as large as 580,000 square feet. The manufacturing plant would be approximately 34 miles (55 km) from Joby Aviation’s headquarters in Santa Cruz. Construction for plant is planned to start by April 2021.
During the Vertical Flight Society’s 7th Annual Electric VTOL Symposium held on Jan. 21-23, 2020, Justin Paines, Chef Test Pilot for Joby Aviation talked about how unified flight control was first developed in 1980. It reduces pilot error and makes it easier to fly the aircraft. All eVTOLs should operate like this, he stated. This is how the Lockheed Martin F-35 combat aircraft controls are made. It means having a good pilot aircraft interface which prevents the pilot from killing himself/herself and his/her passengers.
The idea behind unified flight control is to reduce the ability for the pilot to make errors and crash the aircraft. The argument is not against automation, it’s against partial automation. Pilots can still run out of fuel, run into the ground, hill or mountain, have mid-air collisions and when landing, can have ground collisions. The technology to avoid this pilot error is here and the aircraft will take over the aircraft, when needed, to land safely. The pilot can retake control of the aircraft when the aircraft takes over but it is not be recommended because you’ll probably die. Pilots unable to deal with emergency situations will not crash their aircraft, with this type of technology.
Paines stated that you either you keep things the same or you make it better, it’s called Simplified Vehicle Operations.
- We must avoid accidents
- Have simplified Vehicle Operations
- Lower pilot training costs
- Keep the pilot from killing himself and his passengers
- Joby believes the UAM community will lead the way here
Joby will either operate their own aircraft or be in partnership with other ride share companies with Uber. Joby Aviation has stated on their website, they have become the first partner in Uber’s Elevate initiative with a committed timetable to deploy air taxi services.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL
- Pilot: 1
- Passengers: 4
- Cruise speed: 200 mph (322 km/h)
- Range: 150 miles (241.4 km)
- Propellers: 6 tiltrotors, 4 propellers tilt vertical including the entire motor nacelle, 2 propellers tilt vertically with a linkage mechanism
- Motors: 6 high performance electric motors
- Power source; Lithium-nickel-cobalt-manganese-oxide batteries with a cutting edge battery pack design
- Wingspan: 35 ft (10.7 m)
- Length: 24 ft (7.3 m)
- Weight: 4,000 lb (1,815 kg)
- Windows: Large windows for spectacular views for the passengers
- Fuselage: Composite
- Landing gear: Tricycle wheeled retractable landing gear.
- Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), if one of two motors stop working, the aircraft can make an emergency landing and land safely; redundancy of critical components; can land like an airplane if necessary; has reserve battery power if there is an unexpected delayed when landing
- Joby Aviation: website
- Joby Aviation Facebook
- Joby Aviation YouTube
- Joby Aviation LinkedIn
- U.S. Patent: Aerodynamically efficient lightweight vertical take-off and landing aircraft with pivoting rotors and stowing rotor blades, Joby Aviation, Mar. 18, 2014
- Article: The Joby S2 VTOL Concept, Vertiflite, Nov. 1, 2014
- Article: AHS International Leads Transformative Vertical Flight Initiative, eVTOL News, Nov. 1, 2014
- Article: Lift Where You Need It, Vertiflite, Nov. 1, 2016
- Article: The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Vertiflite, Jan. 1, 2017
- Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, Mar. 1, 2017
- Press release: Joby Aviation Secures $100M in Series B Funding, Joby Aviation, Feb. 1, 2018
- Press release: The Next Phase at Joby, Joby Aviation, Feb. 1, 2018
- Article: Air-Taxi Startup Joby Has a Working Prototype and a Fresh $100M, Bloomberg, Feb. 1, 2018
- Video: JoeBen Bevirt from Joby Aviation at The Second Annual - Titans of Tech, Santa Cruz Works, Mar. 14, 2018
- Article: Ready for liftoff? Two flying taxi startups got Pentagon funding, The Guardian, July 10, 2018
- Article: Joby Unveils More S4 eVTOL Performance Details, Aviation Week & Space Technology, Feb. 5, 2019
- Video: Joby Aviation - Inventing the Future of Air Taxis, Intel Capital, Feb. 5, 2019
- Video: Joby Aviation CEO on the Efficiency of Flying vs. Ridesharing, Climate One, Sept. 13, 2019
- Article: Toyota Makes a New $394 Million Bet on Flying Taxis, Bloomberg, Jan. 15, 2020
- Press Release: Joby Aviation Unveils S4, Joby Aviation Raises $590 Million in Series C Financing to Launch Air Taxi Service, Joby Aviation, Jan. 15, 2020
- Press Release: Toyota Invests $394M More in Joby, Toyota and Joby Aviation are Flying to New Heights Together, Joby Aviation, Jan. 15, 2020
- Article: Santa Cruz aviation company anticipates flying cars in 3 years with Marina-based factory, KSBW Action 8 News, Jan. 17, 2020