Dubai’s government in the UAE has granted Joby Aviation exclusive access to the local market for eVTOL air taxi services in a move that excludes other manufacturers and operators for six years. Under an agreement signed with the emirate’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA), operations are expected to begin no later than early 2026, but possibly from 2025, when Joby also intends to start services in U.S. markets with its four-passenger, piloted aircraft.
The RTA has agreed to provide support including unspecified “financial mechanisms for entry and maturing of service operations in Dubai. The agreement was signed during the World Governments Summit in Dubai and was witnessed by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the UAE’s vice president and prime minister, and also Dubai’s ruler.
Joby is partnering with infrastructure group Skyports, which will design, build, and operate vertiports at sites across Dubai. The first four locations will be Dubai International Airport, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, and Dubai Downtown.
An eVTOL flight from the airport to the Palm Jumeirah resort area is expected to take 10 minutes, compared with a drive of 45 minutes. Joby's all-electric aircraft will have a range of around 100 miles and fly at up to 200 mph.
RTA officials will now start working with Joby and Skyports to prepare for the launch of commercial operations and how these will be integrated with the rest of Dubai's public transportation network. Joby has established a local company and intends to recruit local people to fill most of the positions for its operational team.
Joby's Rivals Face Being Shut Out of Dubai Market
Several rival eVTOL aircraft manufacturers have been seeking to get a foothold in the UAE, including Eve Air Mobility, Archer, EHang, and Lilium. It is unclear what the exclusivity terms of Joby's agreement with Dubai officials will mean for its competitors.
Joby has signaled its intention to establish a larger footprint in Dubai and across the Gulf region. It recently announced that it will participate in Abu Dhabi’s Smart and Autonomous Industry cluster, which is part of efforts to establish advanced air mobility services in Dubai’s neighboring emirate.
According to Joby, Dubai flights in its eVTOL aircraft will be booked using a smartphone app it is developing with RTA as part of an integrated mobility platform. The company has not disclosed initial pricing for flights, but said that its “long-term ambition is to make the cost of air travel competitive with similar ground-based alternatives.”
The wording of the agreement with RTA suggests that Dubai’s air safety regulators intend to allow flights to begin before the Joby aircraft has completed UAE type certification. The California-based manufacturer is aiming to achieve FAA type certification at the end of 2024.