In January 2022 Joby Aviation was reported to be seeking permission for a series of high-profile air taxi flights over San Francisco Bay, according to documents filed with the FCC and obtained by TechCrunch, reported the website. The trials of the start-up’s second-generation pre-production prototype, called the S4, would be the first in full view of the public and one of the first in an urban environment.
The proposed San Francisco tests are centred around two primary sightseeing points in San Francisco Bay. One is about halfway between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, the other is south of the Bay Bridge, closer to Alameda.
Oliver Walker-Jones, Joby’s head of marketing, communications, commented, “We’re in the early stages of exploring the potential to perform a limited number of flights, but have no confirmed plans yet. Securing permission to do so requires us to work with a range of local and federal authorities.” Adding, “That said, this is all very exciting.” The trials over the Bay would follow a year of record-breaking flights, including the longest (155 miles), fastest (205mph) and highest.
Walker-Jones explained, “We have recently flown several flights above 7,000 ft (1.3 miles).” All of these record eVTOL flights took place in remote coastal areas and over private land around Santa Cruz, California. As with its recent record-breaking, the five-seat S4 aircraft will not be carrying any people, but instead be remotely-piloted from nearby ground control stations.
Joby’s application states that flights will last around an hour, mostly over water and up to 5,000 ft. It does not disclose where the aircraft will take-off, land and recharge, although Walker-Jones told TechCrunch.com that it would be on dry land.
The tests are also part of Joby’s multi-year USD45 million contract with U.S. Air Force (USAF), which wants to add eVTOL aircraft into its “strategic capability portfolio.”
Last week, the company said the S4 had surpassed its stated top speed of 200 mph with a 205-mph test flight, while Walker-Jones said the prototype flew 17 missions over 20 minutes in duration in January alone. The 7,000-foot altitude record, if confirmed, would be much higher than air taxis are generally expected to operate for short intra and inter-city flights.
Joby has signed an agreement with urban real estate company Reef Technology in 2021 to develop rooftop take-off and landing sites on parking structures in the Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco Bay Area metropolitan areas.