Joby Aviation has become the first company to fly an all electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft as part of NASA's Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign.
NASA's AAM National Campaign is designed to promote public confidence in emerging aviation markets, such as passenger air taxis, through flight testing in realistic scenarios and data analysis that will inform the development of regulatory standards for emerging aviation platforms.
Part of the test campaign at Joby's electric flight base near Big Sur, California, will see it join forces with NASA to study the acoustic signature of Joby's all-electric aircraft, which it intends to operate as part of a commercial passenger service beginning in 2024.
With a maximum range of 150 miles and a top speed of 200 mph its aircraft is designed to carry four passengers and a pilot with zero operating emissions. With more than 1,000 flight tests completed and full-scale prototypes in the air since 2017, Joby Aviation aims to certify its electric air taxi with the FAA in 2023.
The aircraft is powered by six propellers that tilt to enable vertical takeoff and efficient cruise flight. The number of blades, blade radius, tip speeds and disk loading of the aircraft were all selected to minimise the acoustic footprint and improve the character of the noise produced. The propellers can individually adjust their tilt, rotational speed and blade pitch helping to avoid the blade vortex interactions that cause the traditional helicopter sound.
NASA will deploy its mobile acoustics facility and more than 50 pressure ground-plate microphones in a grid array that allows for multi-directional measurement of the aircraft sound emissions. Using this data NASA and Joby will generate noise hemispheres for the aircraft that capture the intensity and the character of the sound emitted in comparison to helicopters, drones and other aircraft.
When testing is complete a team of acoustic experts from NASA and Joby will work together to analyse the data before sharing their findings later in the year and the readings will be used to verify how proposed aircraft operations will blend into the existing background noise. Joby has released several videos showcasing the quiet nature of the company's aircraft during take-off, hover and overhead flight.
"NASA is proud to continue our relationship with Joby by gathering highly valuable aircraft safety and noise data that will contribute towards an aviation future that includes AAM operations," says Davis Hackenberg, NASA AAM mission integration manager. "Data from industry leaders like Joby is critical for NASA's research activities and future standardisation of emerging aircraft configurations. Industry partnerships are imperative for the United States to become a leader in the development of a safe and sustainable AAM ecosystem."
“NASA has been a critical catalyst in the transition to electric aviation, and we're proud to have partnered with it on multiple groundbreaking projects since our first collaboration in 2012,” says JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO at Joby: “It's incredibly exciting to be the first eVTOL company to fly as part of the AAM National Campaign, leading the way toward a more sustainable future.”
Joby has worked with NASA on a range of aircraft projects over the last decade that have explored electric propulsion, including a long-endurance eVTOL demonstrator called Lotus, the Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology project and the design of the X-57 Maxwell experimental aircraft now undergoing systems integration testing.