Joby Aviation has received the first military airworthiness approval for eVTOL aircraft from the U.S. Air Force.

The news was announced today (Thursday) during the fourth day of AFWERX Accelerate virtual event by Dr. Will Roper, the U.S. Air Force and Space Force Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Chief. It now means Joby’s four-seater prototype will be the first eVTOL aircraft to provide transportation for military staff.

Agility Prime is the U.S. Air Force’s innovative arm spearheading its commitment to partnering with industry investors and helping to fund the creation of technologies, such as eVTOL, which could be used for military missions. 

Dr Roper said: “This is exactly the type of public private partnership innovation the air force and space force want to be a part of. We want to make amazing things happen, not just for the military, but for the world.

“We are excited to see what’s to come from Joby and other companies pushing the boundaries of eVTOL or flying cars. To JoeBen [Bevirt, Joby Aviation’s CEO] and the entire Joby team, congratulations. I can’t wait to see what’s to come.”

Commenting on the announcement, Bevirt said: “Our partnership with AFWERX and the air force has been transformative and we’re incredibly grateful for your support.

“It’s been a spectacular first year. We’ve made some incredible progress and are so excited about what lies ahead as we demonstrate global leadership and advanced air mobility.

“This programme has given us access to facilities, resources and equipment that accelerated testing, allowing us to prove out the reliability and performance of our aircraft. We’re really excited about this next phase of the programme where we are going to be demonstrating the full flight envelope while giving our government partners a front row seat into this transformative new technology.”

Another company which hopes to receive its own military airworthiness approval in the early stages of 2021 is Beta Technologies. Like Joby, the Vermont-based firm is making good progress with its own eVTOL aircraft, called ALIA, and CEO Kyle Clark talked more about the company’s developments during AFWERX Accelerate.

He said: “In my opinion, electric aviation is the inevitable future of aviation – it can’t not be. Just the ability to go vertical, the flexibility, cost savings, and it’s been used in all other forms of transportation. We’re now here with aviation.

“We’re at the testing phase of our second generation aircraft, ALIA, and you can see the design is built around the propulsion…by designing the aircraft around the propulsion, we end up with a much higher performing aircraft than the other way round and that’s the type of thing this programme enables.”

Clark also touched upon Beta’s infrastructure solutions, which consists of a fully featured recharged pad made up of two 40ft iso shipping containers. It has been designed to include a elevated landing deck, hotel units for resting crews and a control centre for mission briefings.

Beta has already broken ground on multiple sites – from its headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, down to Plattsburgh in New York state and all the way to Springfield, Ohio. Clark confirmed that this coming quarter Beta will be conducting operational missions between Springfield and Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

“We’re on the cusp of something super interesting, not just for aviation, but for the whole world to exploit this awesome benefit of electric propulsion, advanced controls to put into an airplane, the level of technology today exists. And when we cross that with the level of physics, we end up with a solution.”

Commenting on Beta’s partnership with Agility Prime, Clark concluded: “It is super important…from the airworthiness work we are doing together, ground vibrations test, test planning, all of these things come together to make a successful programme.

“Without the air force catalysing this, we would be left with shorter tentacles out into the networks that we know presently. That catalysation of bringing people together as the air force, has really enabled us to accelerate some of that advanced testing.

“Everybody knows how incredibly efficient the acquisition process is. There was the no BS; what are you going to do? We’re going to take what you guys have we’re going to help make that even better. That simple innovation has helped transform the pace at which we’re able to do things.”

You can re-watch this session, as well as all the other sessions during AFWERX Accelerate, by clicking here.