Joby Aviation (Joby), a company developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for commercial passenger service, has expanded its flight test programme to include flying with a pilot on board the aircraft, a critical step on the company’s journey towards commercial operations.
Four members of Joby’s flight test team have now piloted flights on board the company’s pre-production prototype aircraft, completing a series of initial tests that included free thrust-borne hovers and forward transitions to semi-thrust-borne flight.
The testing took place at the company’s Pilot Production Facility in Marina, CA and complements ongoing flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base announced in September, where both Joby and U.S. Air Force pilots will demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities in realistic operating scenarios.
To date, the majority of Joby’s flight testing has been piloted remotely from a ground control station (GCS), using state-of-the-art communications technology and software. This has allowed the company to generate a vast amount of data on the performance of the aircraft across a broad range of flight conditions.
The pilot-on-board campaign was led by Joby Chief Test Pilot James “Buddy” Denham and was designed to gather data on the aircraft’s handling qualities and pilot control interfaces, supporting the development of the aircraft and laying the groundwork for future “for credit” testing as part of the company’s ongoing certification programme with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
During the testing, Joby pilots assessed the ease of conducting a number of tasks and manoeuvres that pilots will be required to perform during normal operations, including vertical take-offs, accelerating and transitioning to forward flight, runway centreline tracking and decelerating to a vertical landing on a representative landing pad. Evaluation of these mission task elements (MTEs) will support the certification of the Joby aircraft as well as the company’s ongoing work with the Department of Defence.