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NASA kicks off test flight of electric air taxis

By Christian Imperio Published Sep 02, 2021 2:55 pm

NASA has started its 10-day test flight campaign with Joby Aviation's all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

According to the space agency, the campaign aims to advance airspace mobility in the United States and "help integrate air taxis, drones and other inventive new vehicles into the national airspace."

The flight test, which will run from Aug. 30 to Sept. 10 at the US air taxi developer's Electric Flight Base near Big Sur, California, is part of the agency’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign.

NASA said that the campaign's goal is to collect vehicle performance and acoustic data which will be used in modeling and simulation of future airspace concepts. During the series of tests, the space agency will collect information about "how the vehicle moves, how the vehicle sounds, and how the vehicle communicates with controllers."

“The National Campaign Developmental Testing is an important strategic step in NASA’s goals to accelerate the AAM industry timeline,” NASA AAM mission integration manager Davis Hackenberg said. “These testing scenarios will help inform gaps in current standards to benefit the industry’s progress of integrating AAM vehicles into the airspace.”

Joby Aviation's eVTOL has six propellers that tilt to enable vertical takeoff and efficient cruise flight. The aircraft has a range of 150 miles and can transport a pilot and up to four people at speeds of up to 200 mph.

The aerospace company said that number of blades, blade radius, top speeds, and disk loading of the aircraft were all selected to minimize the acoustic footprint and improve the character of the noise produced.

"The propellers can also individually adjust their tilt, rotational speed, and blade pitch, helping to avoid the blade vortex interactions that cause the “wop wop” sound we associate with traditional helicopters," it said.

The California-based company aims to start commercial passenger service in 2024.

Apart from Joby Aviation, Tokyo-based car manufacturer SkyDrive is also aiming to launch its own commercial flying taxi service in Japan by 2023.

The company claims that its eVTOL prototype would be able to cruise at an altitude of 500m and would be able to achieve a top speed of 60 km/h.

According to a research by Morgan Stanley in 2019, the flying car market is expected to grow to ¥158 trillion ($1.5 trillion) globally by 2040.

(Images from Joby Aviation)