The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is expanding its contract with California-based eVTOL developer Joby, establishing a new partnership between the company and the Marine Corps.
Joby has been under contract with the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program since late 2020, when the company’s unnamed four-seat aircraft prototype became the first eVTOL to receive military airworthiness approval, clearing the way for its use in transporting military personnel and cargo.
Under its new partnership with the Marine Corps, Joby will explore non-combat use cases for its eVTOL aircraft, including cargo resupply missions, emergency medical response applications and relocation of personnel. The expansion, which the company announced on August 10, increases the contract’s potential value by more than $45 million, bringing the total value of the contract to $75 million.
“This extension provides valuable support for our ongoing development efforts and allows our partners to see first-hand the potential for this aircraft in their future concept of operations,” said Joby CEO and founder JoeBen Bevirt.
The air force launched the Agility Prime program in April 2020 to accelerate the development of eVTOL technologies through public-private partnerships. Joby is one of 19 eVTOL companies participating in Agility Prime’s so-called “Air Race to Certification.” Other participants include Beta Technologies, Elroy Air, and Sabrewing Aircraft.
Although Joby did not disclose exactly how much cash it has received from the Agility Prime program so far, the company reported in February 2021 that it had begun generating revenue under the contract.
Joby says its work with the DoD will help to bolster its plans to launch its commercial air taxi service by providing the company with early operational experience with government partners and access to testing facilities, and the investment will help to offset research and development costs.
Since it began flight testing its first prototype in 2019, Joby has completed more than 1,000 flight tests. Its production model will be designed to carry four passengers and one pilot across distances of up to 150 miles (240 kilometers), traveling at a maximum speed of 200 mph (320 km/h). The company aims to have its air taxis type certified to enter into commercial service by 2024.