Pilotless air taxis? Joby sees the possibility with new acquisition

2024-06-04 09:46

Cars


Joby Aviation eVTOL aircraft
Image: Joby

Leading electric aviation company Joby Aviation said it has acquired the autonomy division from Xwing, an aviation startup that’s been working on pilotless flight projects for several years. The terms of the deal, which involve an amount of Joby stock, were not disclosed.

Joby’s electric air taxis are still a couple years away from launch, but the company says it wants to position itself to take advantage of autonomous flight when the technology is ready for commercial application.

Xwing, which was founded in 2016, has conducted 250 autonomous test flights as well as 500 auto-landings. And, in April 2023, it was the first company to receive an official project designation for the certification of a large unmanned aerial system from the Federal Aviation Administration, Joby says.

The acquisition could also help Joby expand its business with the Department of Defense, which has been a partner for the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) company since 2016. The Pentagon has been eyeing eVTOLs and autonomy as it seeks to improve its mission safety.

Xwing is the latest startup to be absorbed by Joby, which is working to solidify its leadership in the nascent eVTOL space. In 2021, the company acquired Inras GmbH, a company developing lightweight, high-performance radar sensor technology. And earlier this year, Joby signed a deal to launch an air taxi service in Dubai in 2026. The company recently performed a few exhibition flights in Manhattan and plans to start flying commercial passengers in cities like New York and Los Angeles in 2025.

Joby’s all-electric aircraft has six rotors and seats five, including the pilot. The vehicle can take off vertically, like a helicopter, and then shift into forward flight using tilt rotors. Joby says it can reach a top speed of 200mph, travel 150 miles on a single battery charge, and is 100 times quieter than a conventional aircraft.

Several air taxi companies plan to launch their services in the coming years, including Archer, Lilium, Beta Technologies, and Wisk Aero. Most will operate with pilots in the cockpit, although they say autonomous flight remains a stretch goal.

“The aircraft we are certifying will have a fully-qualified pilot on board,” JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby, said in a statement, “but we recognize that a future generation of autonomous aircraft will play an important part in unlocking our vision of making clean and affordable aerial mobility as accessible as possible.”


Source: https://www.theverge.com/2024/6/4/24171086/job-acquire-xwing-autonomous-flight-evtol-air-taxi