Joby Aviation, a California-based startup company, announced on Monday that it had delivered its first electric air taxi to the U.S. Air Force, becoming the first company in the United States to deliver a fully electric air taxi.
The battery-powered, oddly shaped six-rotor aircraft was delivered to the Emerging Technologies Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and is the first of nine total to be delivered under a contract with the company. In its press release, the company stated that the value of the company’s contract with the Pentagon is US$131 million (IT Home Note: currently approximately 958 million yuan).
The aircraft was delivered six months ahead of schedule and was developed through the Air Force’s Agile Prototyping Program, according to the company. Sponsored by AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation arm, the program works with a variety of industry players to develop proven electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technology. Like the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey, Joby’s electric aircraft can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, but it can also spin its propellers to fly like an airplane.
The company and the U.S. Department of Defense say the plane’s dual civilian and military uses could help revolutionize the aviation industry, which relies heavily on gasoline for propulsion and produces large amounts of carbon emissions. Joby said its aircraft provides a range of 100 miles (approximately 160.93 kilometers), a top speed of 200 miles per hour (approximately 321.87 kilometers) per hour, and can carry four passengers and a pilot.
The eVTOL market could be worth more than $22 billion by 2030, according to analytics firm GlobalData. As part of its partnership with the Air Force, NASA will also try to use the Joby aircraft for other uses, with some focus on autonomous driving and is expected to complete a range of missions including cargo and passenger transportation.
In addition to the support of the US military, Joby Aviation has also received substantial financial support from Intel, Delta Air Lines, Toyota Motor and other companies. Toyota is currently the largest external shareholder of Joby Aviation and has invested approximately US$400 million in the latter. In June of this year, Tetsuo Ogawa, CEO of Toyota North America, also joined the board of directors of Joby Aviation.