UAM Snapshot – Joby S4

Source: Joby Aviation

Founded in 2009, California-based startup Joby Aviation first cut its teeth on the development of electric aircraft in partnership with the U.S National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) before later setting out to establish its own multipurpose eVTOL concept. Over the subsequent years, Joby has accumulated a raft of investment and interest from entities ranging from the United States Air Force to Delta Airlines and has outlined ambitious manufacturing and infrastructural development goals.

Joby’s development efforts culminated in the development of the S4 eVTOL platform. The S4 is a four-passenger, single-pilot air taxi design that combines elements of helicopters and small airplanes. The vectored-thrust aircraft utilizes six tilting propellers that are located on both the fixed-wing and its V-tail. Four propellers tilt vertically, including the entire motor nacelle, and two of the propellers tilt vertically with a linkage mechanism. A distributed electric propulsion system can reach speeds of 200 mph. The motors are powered by lithium-nickel-cobalt-manganese-oxide batteries that allow the aircraft a range of 150 miles. The vehicle employs a unified flight control system to reduce pilot workload during the conversion to and from VTOL to horizontal flight mode. The S4 features a wingspan of 35 feet, a length of 24 feet, and a tricycle wheel retractable landing gear.

Over the past three years, the S4 platform has proceeded at a steady clip through the FAA airworthiness certification process. The S4 took its first flight in August 2023. In February 2024, Joby announced that the S4 had successfully cleared the third of the certification processes’ five approval stages, with the latest stage encompassing assessments of the platform’s structural and electrical systems. Joby envisions introducing the S4 onto the commercial market as early as 2025.

The company has received investment funding from a litany of sources, from Delta Airlines for up to $200.0 million, $75.0 million from Uber and $100.0 million from South Korea’s SK Telecom, amongst others. After years of cooperation with the U.S Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit (DoD-DIU), Joby was awarded a $131.0 million contract for the provision of nine S4 aircraft to the United States Air Force (USAF) in August 2023.  The first S4 was delivered into the service’s ownership in September of that same year and Joby has deepened its cooperation with the USAF over early 204.

As the platform’s certification grows nearer, Joby is also in the process of ramping up manufacturing activity at its newly-procured facilities in Dayton, Ohio. Joby says its facilities will be capable of delivering up to 500 aircraft per year once fully operational.

Senior Aerospace & Defense Analyst at Forecast International | + posts