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Joby S4


Joby Aviation
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. Their former projects include the Joby S2Joby Lotus, and Joby Monarch.

Joby Aviation has been relatively secret with its S4 aircraft, but it was derived from 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 Vertical Flight Society’s 6th Annual eVTOL Symposium in January 2019, Joby revealed additional information and initial performance details of test flights of scale and full-sized demonstrators. On Jan. 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.

At the 7th Annual eVTOL Symposium on Jan. 22, 2020, founder JoeBen Bevirt gave a banquet keynote address and gave insights into the history of the company and the air taxi development.  

At the US Air Force Agility Prime Launch Event on April 27, 2020, Joby Aviation Executive Chairman Paul Sciarra provided highlights into the company’s flight testing over the past five years, and showed the history of flight testing its subscale model, its four-seat Generation 1 aircraft and its five-seat Generation 2 aircraft, which is now moving through the FAA Type Certification process. 

Agility Prime has Joby Aviation Paul Sciarra review their flight testing from 2015-2019 on Zoom April 2020.

Joby Executive Chairman Paul Sciarra briefed at the Agility Prime launch in April 2020.

A July 17, 2020 article on eVTOL.com detailed the air lift transfer by helicopter of the second generation S4 from Santa Cruz to US Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett in southern Monterey County on July 7. 

A Sept. 25, 2020 Aviation Week article reiterated that the original unmanned prototype sized for four seats is referred to as "1.0" and the second aircraft, sized for five seats, is referred to as "2.0" or "second generation."

Sized to carry four passengers and one pilot, it will be capable of operating day/night flights in instrument or visual flight rules up to 150 nm. Although only 21 ft. [6.4 m] long overall, the aircraft has a wingspan of 38 ft. [11.6 m] ...


Subscale S4 prototypes were flown more than 700 times starting in 2015, and in 2017 the company began remotely piloted tests of the first-generation, full-scale “1.0” version. Building on this high-wing, six-propeller configuration, Joby started flight tests in 2019 of the second-generation “2.0” version. Changes included increased gross weight—up to 4,800 lb. [2,177 kg] — and a revised swept-forward V-tail.

Joby says “several hundred” flights have been completed to date, including some with a pilot onboard. Although some testing can be flown remotely, the certified S4 will be piloted to enable integration into the existing national airspace.  

— Joby Unveils EVTOL Design Details And Certification Plans, Aviation Week Network, Sept. 25, 2020

Joby Aviation's S4 air taxi 2.0 is a five (5) seat eVTOL (1 pilot and 4 passengers) vectored-thrust aircraft using six (6) tilting propellers which are located on both the 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.

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.

Specifications (S4 "1.0"):

  • 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