Two air taxi makers descended on New York City on 12 November to show the capabilities of their electric aircraft ahead of planned operations as soon as 2025.
US air taxi developer Joby Aviation and Germany’s Volocopter, both considered front-runners in the race to launch passenger operations with electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles, flew their aircraft before a backdrop of skyscrapers and the Brooklyn Bridge during a ceremony attended by New York Mayor Eric Adams and other city officials.
The event was framed as the beginning of a new era of urban air mobility and a preview of regular air taxi flights in New York City.
“Here at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, we are going to establish the world’s first heliport with the electric-powered [aircraft] of this nature,” Adams told attendees, adding that the site would “become a new hub for sustainable transportation”.
Source: Joby Aviation
Joby’s four-passenger, one-pilot aircraft can cruise at speeds of 320km/h, with a range of up to 87nm (161km)
Those present watched as Joby’s four-passenger, one-pilot eVTOL took flight in an urban setting for the first time. The roughly six-minute sortie was also the first of its kind in New York.
It was a landmark moment for Santa Cruz-based Joby and its chief executive JoeBen Bevirt, who called Manhattan “one of the most iconic locations in the world”.
“This is a dream I’ve had since I was little,” Bevirt said as Joby’s aircraft banked slowly overhead. “Being able to fly this aircraft here in New York is just absolutely spectacular. I can’t tell you how thrilled the entire team from Joby is to be here and for all of you to experience it.”
The sortie followed several days of warm-up flights in nearby Kearny, New Jersey, says Joby. The company has previously disclosed that it has completed more than 1,000 test flights with its eVTOL.
Joby’s flight was shortly followed by Volocopter’s 2X prototype, which has flown previously in Singapore, and in Las Vegas during last month’s NBAA event.
The air taxi developer has recently been on a charm offensive to win public support for eVTOL operations. Following that theme, Volocopter’s two-person, 18-rotor vehicle flew for about five minutes on 12 November, concluding with a hovering “bow” to the audience.
“He is bowing and saying thank you,” says Christian Bauer, managing director of Volocopter, “showing how easy it is, really, to manoeuvre these aircraft.”
Volcopter calls the Downtown Manhattan Heliport a ”well-known transport hub for travellers in need of an efficient ride to neighbouring airports” or for sight-seeing flights
The company says its ”multicopter design is particularly suited for short- to mid-range urban missions, producing zero emissions in flight and very little noise pollution that is hardly audible in a busy metropolis like NYC”.
Volocopter expects its two-seat, piloted VoloCity air taxi to be type certificated in Europe early next year, likely making it one of the world’s first to begin regular air taxi operations.
Joby plans to be right behind with FAA certification in 2025. The company is working with its partner Delta Air Lines to develop “best-in-class take-off and landing infrastructure that is tightly coupled with their terminals and LaGuardia and JFK”, Bevirt says. “Delta passengers can go from their Delta flight and onto a Joby flight and be right here at the downtown helipad in just seven minutes.”
Rival eVTOL maker Archer Aviation also has it sights set on New York. The California company says it is on pace to launch passenger operations in 2025 and plans to launch in New York City through its partnership with United Airlines.
Vermont-based electric aircraft developer Beta Technologies also had a presence during the 12 November flight ceremony, with a display of its Charging Cube – a charging station that the company has been rolling out at dozens of locations on the East Coast of the USA.
“This charger is the type of infrastructure that will be deployed at heliports to support electric aircraft,” says Andrew Kimball, chief CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
“Access to reliable, fast charging infrastructure will be critical to enabling this technology to drive the economy and connect communities, from downtown Manhattan to more rural areas,” says Kyle Clark, Beta’s chief executive. ”New York has long been out in front supporting sustainable, next-generation transportation, and we’re gratified to be part of its embrace of that same future for aviation.”
Archer, Beta and Joby have been at the centre of an emerging dispute over the direction of charging infrastructure for eVTOLs and other electric aircraft, with Joby favouring its eVTOL-optimised but “universal” system and Archer and Beta calling for an automotive-based standard.
Source: Joby Aviation
“We plan to make quiet, emissions-free flight an affordable, everyday reality for New Yorkers, while significantly reducing the impact of helicopter noise,” says Joby’s Bivert