The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

NASA Flight Testing Starts with Noise Evaluation of Joby's eVTOL

Joby Aviation’s eVTOL aircraft has begun two weeks of flight testing as part of NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign, becoming the first of the new designs to be evaluated. The company’s engineering team and the agency’s staff are assessing the all-electric prototype's acoustic noise signature in takeoff, hover, and overhead flight.

NASA has deployed its mobile acoustics facility and has installed more than 40 pressure ground-plate microphones at Joby’s Electric Flight Base facility near Big Sur, California. This grid array of microphones will support multidimensional measurement of sound levels from the Joby aircraft.

The partners will use data collected to generate noise hemispheres for the aircraft that capture the intensity and character of the sound emitted in comparison with helicopters, drones, and other aircraft. The readings, combined with noise profiles recorded in urban communities, will be used to verify how proposed aircraft operations will blend into the existing noise background for services such as air taxi flights and freight deliveries.

“From day one, we prioritized building an aircraft that not only has an extremely low noise profile but blends seamlessly into the natural environment,” commented Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt. “We have always believed that a minimal acoustic footprint is key to making aviation a convenient part of everyday movement without compromising quality of life.”

Joby’s unnamed eVTOL aircraft is intended to carry four passengers and a pilot up to 150 miles and at a top speed of 200 mph. It has six propellers that tilt to support both vertical lift and cruise flight.

Since 2017, the company, which recently achieved a listing on the New York Stock Exchange, has made more than 1,000 test flights with various prototypes. It aims to complete FAA certification in 2023, in time to begin commercial operations the following year.

The main objectives of the National Campaign are to give vehicle manufacturers and operators insights into the evolving regulatory environment, promote public confidence in advanced air mobility, and support community-wide learning while capturing the public’s imagination for the new mode of transportation. Wisk Aero will be deploying its two-seat, autonomous Cora eVTOL in the flight testing, with Reliable Robotics providing its remotely piloted Cessna Caravan fixed-wing aircraft. Other previously named program participants include Elroy Air with its Chaparral cargo-carrying eVTOL and Alaka'i Technologies with its Skai vehicle.

“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,” said Davis Hackenberg, the agency’s AAM mission integration manager. “Data from industry leaders like Joby is critical for NASA’s research activities and future standardization of emerging aircraft configurations.”

The first phase of the NASA campaign will also include two-way network flight plan communications, beyond visual line-of-sight operations, simulated vehicle and operational contingencies, dynamic traffic avoidance and trajectory management, and approaches and landings around buildings. The program’s airspace partners are Anra Technologies, Arinc, Avision, Metron Aviation, OneSky Systems, SkyGrid, and Unmanned Experts. SkyGrid is also an infrastructure partner, along with Aura Network Systems, Raytheon, Robust Analytics, and the University of North Texas.

NASA has worked with Joby over the past decade on various projects exploring electric propulsion, including a long-endurance eVTOL demonstrator called Lotus, the Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology project, and design work for the X-57 Maxwell experimental aircraft, which is now undergoing systems integration testing. The data from the National Campaign’s acoustic noise signature evaluation will be published later this year.