Advancements in Aerial Mobility: NASA and U.S. Air Force Evaluate Joby Aviation’s Electric VTOL Aircraft for Civilian and Military Use
Joby Aviation’s electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi is stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in Edwards, California. The delivery of this aircraft was formally announced on September 25, as part of a contract with the U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX Agility Prime initiative. NASA is a collaborative partner with AFWERX and plans to use the aircraft to assess its viability for mainstream aerial transportation. Credit: Joby Aviation
NASA and the United States Air Force are rigorously testing Joby Aviation’s eVTOL aircraft to explore its potential applications in both civilian and defense sectors. This endeavor supplements NASA’s ongoing Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) research, with an aim to revolutionize the future of air travel.
The newly developed air taxi from Joby Aviation will serve as a test vehicle for NASA to study how such crafts could be assimilated into the national airspace for routine use. Simultaneously, the Air Force will investigate its prospective applications for defense purposes.
On the 25th of September, Joby Aviation disclosed the completion of a delivery of their eVTOL aircraft. This was conducted under a funded agreement with their client, the U.S. Air Force AFWERX Agility Prime initiative. NASA, via an interdepartmental arrangement with AFWERX, will utilize the aircraft to perform tests focused on the aircraft’s integration into the national airspace.
Parimal Kopardekar, the Integration Manager for NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility mission, stated, “NASA and AFWERX have engaged in a pivotal, ongoing partnership on Advanced Air Mobility, uniting cutting-edge resources with top-notch expertise to expedite the advancement of this sector.”
Joby Aviation recently fulfilled the delivery of its inaugural eVTOL aircraft to Edwards Air Force Base, in line with the company’s contractual obligations with the U.S. Air Force. Credit: Joby Aviation
Beginning in 2024, NASA’s team of pilots and researchers will commence exhaustive tests on the Joby eVTOL aircraft. The focus will be on aspects such as air traffic management, flight protocols, and terrestrial infrastructure. NASA’s Mobile Operating Facility, a mobile research laboratory, will be employed in these tests.
NASA’s Contribution to AAM Research
NASA’s extensive Advanced Air Mobility research has laid the groundwork for this initiative. The research aims to outline a comprehensive plan for the future integration of different air transport systems. Air taxis and unmanned aerial vehicles could serve essential functions such as emergency response, combating wildfires, and medical supply deliveries, thereby making communities more interconnected and accessible. NASA aims to refine technologies that will propel the entire industry of air taxis and drones forward, while sharing its insights with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for policy formulation.
Partnership Milestones and Previous Collaborations
This initiative is an extension of the previously completed non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement between NASA and Joby. This previous collaboration focused primarily on assessing aircraft noise through simulated flight tests in Joby’s facilities.
Joby Aviation was also a recipient of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards in its early developmental phase. The SBIR program aids small businesses in accelerating innovative technologies, thereby benefiting the broader U.S. economy.
Defense Applications and Upcoming Plans
On the defense aspect, AFWERX’s Agility Prime program bears the primary responsibility for assessing the aircraft’s utility for military operations. The first Joby air taxi was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where the 412th Test Wing’s Emerging Technologies Integrated Test Force will lead the flight test campaigns for both Joby and Agility Prime. Additionally, the proximity of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center to Edwards makes it a strategic site for comprehensive flight research. The delivery to Edwards Air Force Base signifies the beginning of a series of tests, with more Joby aircraft slated for evaluations at various U.S. military installations in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Joby Aviation’s electric VTOL aircraft testing
What organizations are involved in the testing of Joby Aviation’s eVTOL aircraft?
NASA and the U.S. Air Force are the primary organizations involved. The testing is part of a funded contract with the U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX Agility Prime program. NASA is participating through an interagency agreement with AFWERX.
What is the main objective of testing Joby Aviation’s eVTOL aircraft?
The main objective is to evaluate the aircraft’s potential for both civilian and military applications. NASA is particularly interested in understanding how such vehicles could be integrated into national airspace for everyday use.
What research is this testing building upon?
The testing builds upon NASA’s ongoing Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) research. This research aims to develop a blueprint for the future of air transportation systems.
When will the testing commence?
The exhaustive testing is slated to begin in 2024, utilizing NASA pilots and researchers. The focus will be on air traffic management, flight protocols, and ground-based infrastructure.
What role is the AFWERX Agility Prime program playing in this?
The AFWERX Agility Prime program is primarily responsible for exploring the aircraft’s potential defense applications. They are also the customer to whom Joby Aviation delivered the first eVTOL aircraft.
Where is the testing taking place?
The testing is taking place at Edwards Air Force Base in Edwards, California. NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center is also conveniently located at Edwards, making it a strategic location for extensive flight research.
What specific areas will the research focus on?
The research will focus on air traffic management, flight procedures, and terrestrial infrastructure. NASA’s Mobile Operating Facility, a mobile research lab, will be employed for these tests.
Was Joby Aviation ever a recipient of any awards or grants from NASA?
Yes, Joby Aviation was one of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) recipients during the early stages of the company’s technology development.
How will the findings from this testing be utilized?
The findings will be shared with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to inform new policies. The aim is to mature technologies that will propel the entire air taxi and drone industry forward.
Are there any previous collaborations between NASA and Joby Aviation?
Yes, there was a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement between NASA and Joby Aviation, which focused on studying aircraft noise through a series of flight test simulations.
More about Joby Aviation’s electric VTOL aircraft testing
- NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Research
- U.S. Air Force AFWERX Agility Prime Program
- Joby Aviation Official Website
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airspace Guidelines
- NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program
- Edwards Air Force Base Official Website
- NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
- Interagency Agreements in Aerospace Research