NASA has launched electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft test flights – colloquially known as “flying cars” – with Joby Aviation, the northern California company that recently went public. The test flights are part of a nationwide NASA campaign to observe these experimental aircraft in action and determine if they are safe for passengers.
Joby, which was founded in 2009, is the first eVTOL company to participate in NASA’s National Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) campaign. Test flights began on Monday, August 30, at the company’s airfield in Big Sur, Calif., And will continue until September 10, the agency said.
But NASA won’t be a passive observer as Joby’s six-rotor plane soars through the air. The space agency will collect “data on vehicle performance and acoustics for use in modeling and simulating future airspace concepts,” he said.
In other words, it will closely monitor the aircraft’s sound profile to see how well it compares to helicopters and other gasoline vehicles. A major selling point for eVTOL companies is that these planes are significantly quieter than helicopters, and therefore better suited for flights over populated areas.
During the test flights, NASA said its team “will collect information on how the vehicle moves, the sound of the vehicle and how the vehicle communicates with controllers.” The agency plans to conduct similar tests with other eVTOL companies in the future.
NASA will also advise the Federal Aviation Administration as it drafts new rules for electric air taxis like Joby. NASA’s national campaign is “an important strategic step in NASA’s goals to accelerate the AAM industry timeline,” said Davis Hackenberg, head of NASA’s AAM mission integration, in a communicated. “These test cases will help fill gaps in current standards for the benefit of industry advancements in integrating AAM vehicles into airspace.”
Of course, it’s NASA’s job to encourage the development of advanced aviation technology, but it’s the FAA’s job to write the rules that will govern their flights and business operations. But it is not without its fair share of turmoil. The space agency previously signed data-sharing agreements with Uber on the rideshare company’s fledgling air taxi projects that never came to fruition. Last year, the company transferred its eVTOL division, Uber Elevate, to Joby in exchange for a $ 75 million investment in the startup.
Joby and other eVTOL companies are hoping to eventually achieve FAA certification, but this process will likely take a long time. Some experts have said it will take five years or maybe more before the FAA grants certification to an eVTOL company. Joby has announced plans to launch its first air taxi service in 2024.