Joby Aviation has been making progress with the development of eVTOL aircraft. After completing the second stage of testing to certify its aircraft for commercial and passenger use, Joby has announced two new developments in the work toward building all-electric aircraft for commercial use. Joby has not only begun the final assembly for a company-conforming eVTOL aircraft but has begun testing at the world's largest wind tunnel facility.
The company announced on Tuesday that it had begun the final assembly of what is thought to be the world's first company-conforming eVTOL aircraft. The aircraft was the first to be produced at the Marina, California manufacturing facility.RELATED STORIES:Joby completes second stage in eVTOL Part 135 certification processJoby takes step forward in eVTOL operations with Part 135 FAA certification
It has been manufactured with a released design and was built in compliance with the complete implementation of a quality management system and has been qualified as a company-conforming aircraft. This is the latest step toward achieving FAA type certification.
"Beginning final assembly of our first company-conforming aircraft is a critical achievement for Joby and a landmark for the wider eVTOL industry," the Head of Aircraft OEM at Joby, Didier Papadopoulos, said.
"It unlocks the path ahead and allows us to exercise our quality management system in preparation for type certification and a subsequent production certification," Papadopoulos said. "There is an incredible amount of work that goes into getting to this point and I'm very grateful for the energy and commitment of the team behind this achievement."
Joby has built the major components of the aircraft like the wing, tail and fuselage. The structures are on the production line, being fitted together and installed with wiring, electronics, actuation and propulsion systems. Flight testing is expected to begin in 2023.
On the path to type certification for the aircraft from the FAA, Joby has been maturing its quality management system for every part of the aircraft, including tracking of documentation, configuration management of engineering drawings, other actions taken by manufacturing technicians, and environmental conditions during fabrication. Systems are regularly reviewed as the company prepares for a production certificate after the type certification.
With the low-rate aircraft production at the facility in Marina, Joby is evaluating proposals from states in the U.S. for the construction of a Phase 1 production facility. As Joby works through an in-depth five-step process for certification, testing and production work is being done continually to fit with the timeline and projected plans.
Joby announced Thursday that the company began testing at the National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex (NFAC) at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. This center is the largest wind tunnel facility in the world and Joby said it was the first eVTOL company to test its propeller in the 40-by-80-foot wind tunnel.
"Testing is a critical part of our aircraft program and the opportunity to gather data on the performance of our propellers in one of the world's largest wind tunnels is an exciting step toward commercialization," Joby Founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said.
The NFAC is managed by the U.S. Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Complex and contains the two largest operational wind tunnels in the world. Joby said the data collected at testing will be seen as the gold standard for aircraft aerodynamics and performance. The facility has been used to test iconic vehicles like the space shuttle, the V-22 Osprey, multiple next-generation helicopters and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"This facility helped introduce historic aircraft to the world, and now it's doing the same for the next generation of sustainable aviation," Bevirt said.
Testing will cover all the tilt angles and speeds through the expected flight envelope. These tests can provide Joby with high-fidelity data on performance loads and acoustics for the propeller systems. This research will be done in support of the certification program with the FAA.
Working with the U.S. Air Force and Nasa, Joby will install a production-intent electric propulsion unit and propeller assembly in the wind tunnel by mounting it to a six-degree-of-freedom force and moment balance to capture data from the performance. Blades are imperative for measuring the loads experienced while rotating and a representative wing section of the Joby aircraft will allow careful analysis of interference effects.
The test campaign is expected to produce data that exceeds what is captured during normal flight testing with the added help of superior instrumentation and precise control of variables. The full test campaign is expected to take months to complete.
Joby and NASA have partnered on multiple projects exploring electric aircraft technology including the design of the all-electric X057 Maxwell prototype. In 2022, a two-week acoustic testing program took place as part of NASA's Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign.
With over 1,000 flight tests completed, the all-electric model is designed to give the passenger a quick and quiet method of air transport. Passengers can expect expedited travel with zero operating emissions. Joby plans a launch for its commercial aerial ridesharing service in the U.S. in 2025.
Joby is making progress on completing testing and eventual certification for its eVTOL and the use of all-electric air taxi travel for commercial use is coming closer with every advance.