Flying taxis that have been in the works for civilian use will first be approved for military purposes, ferrying cargo and people at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
- The U.S. military is often the first to test new technology before it is available to the private sector, and electric air taxis will be no different.
- Joby Aviation, an air-taxi manufacturer, has announced a $55 million extension of its ongoing U.S. Air Force (USAF) contract, bringing its total value to around $131 million, Axios reports.
- As part of the new contract, Joby will provide the USAF with up to nine electrical vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOLs). Joby will also be responsible for operating the aircraft.
- The first two eVTOLs will be delivered to the base by March 2024.
Why it’s news
Electric, short-range aircraft have been in the works for some time. United and other airlines have invested in other eVTOL development companies. In civilian use, these flying taxis are pitched as short-range flight opportunities for crowded cities. Rather than sitting in vehicle traffic, customers can hop on a quick flight to the other side of town.
Flying taxis have yet to be put into civilian use, but developers are getting closer to making flying cars a reality. Joby’s deal will give the Air Force and other government agencies like NASA first-hand experience with eVTOLs. Joby employees will be the primary operators of the aircraft, but some USAF pilots will receive training, Axios reports.
When Joby delivers its first eVTOL to the military base, it will mark the first actual delivery of the electric plane to a customer. The trained Air Force pilots will also be the first non-Joby pilots to command the aircraft. Joby executive chairman Paul Sciarra also notes that the first real-world use of the technology will help the company better tune the planes for more common usage.
Joby is not the only eVTOL company the USAF is working alongside. Through its Agility Prime program, the Air Force has partnered with multiple developers to bring eVTOLs to the U.S. military.
Civilian-use aircraft may not be far behind. Joby is still working with the Federal Aviation Administration to receive official certification for civilian eVTOL use, Axios reports.