NASA Carries Out Series of Flight Tests on Joby’s S4 Simulator

Joby Aviation’s cut­ting-edge eVTOL S4 Flight Sim­u­la­tor is prov­ing pop­u­lar and NASA is present­ly col­lab­o­rat­ing with the com­pa­ny on a series of sim­u­lat­ed flight tests, reports a press release.

The aim is for NASA’s Advanced Air Mobil­i­ty (AAM) researchers to gath­er data and assist the future of the Nation­al air­space required by eVTOLs and drones “to exe­cute flight paths as eas­i­ly as your phone maps your car’s route.” The ref­er­ence data gath­ered will pro­vide “insight into how these vehi­cles will fly in the air­space and help devel­op poten­tial depar­tures, approach­es, missed approach­es, and mid-flight way­points.”  

The release explains, “Inte­grat­ing these in-flight maneu­vers, which are used by air­craft to take off, land, and avoid haz­ards as well as each oth­er into AAM oper­a­tions, is one of sev­er­al devel­op­men­tal efforts nec­es­sary to allow these vehi­cles to safe­ly enter the air­space.”

Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion (FAA) data sci­en­tist Sarah Eggum, left, and FAA Unmanned Air­craft Sys­tem Inte­gra­tion Office pro­gram man­ag­er Brad Drake analyse flight alti­tude data on Sept.19 in Mari­na, Cal­i­for­nia. In the back­ground, NASA research pilot Wayne Ringle­berg and NASA project oper­a­tions engi­neer Andrew Guion exe­cute flight paths in Joby Aviation’s S4 sim­u­la­tor. (cred­it Joby/NASA)

To date, four NASA research pilots have flown the Joby sim­u­la­tor. It includes joy­stick con­trols, avion­ics, and per­for­mance mod­el­ing that dupli­cate the feel of fly­ing Joby’s S4 air taxi. The tri­als involve fly­ing the sim­u­la­tor along des­ig­nat­ed route way­points, col­lect­ing data to analyse which maneu­vers are best for obsta­cle avoid­ance, route effi­cien­cy, pas­sen­ger com­fort, and noise. 

The release con­tin­ues, “The sim­u­la­tions also exper­i­ment with a new flight path con­cept the FAA calls a deproach, in which a vehi­cle can fly in mul­ti­ple direc­tions as it trav­els to and from its start­ing point and adapt beyond its des­ig­nat­ed flight path if it needs to respond to air restric­tions. In this way, the deproach could address the need for AAM vehi­cles to be able to oper­ate flex­i­bly at low alti­tudes while con­serv­ing air­space.”

David Zahn, a NASA pilot lead­ing the project’s Joby sim­u­la­tor work, com­ment­ed, “You can think of a deproach as a cir­cu­lar traf­fic pro­file which con­sol­i­dates depar­ture, approach, and missed pro­ce­dures in a way cur­rent air­space mod­els don’t account for.”

He con­tin­ued, “The abil­i­ty to explore this new mod­el and help stream­line the process of reach­ing spe­cif­ic ver­ti­ports is an exam­ple of the val­ue of these sim­u­la­tions.”

Along­side fine-tun­ing this pro­ce­dure, the sim­u­la­tion test data is to estab­lish “base­points of alti­tude, maneu­ver­abil­i­ty, and ride qual­i­ty for future tests” to ulti­mate­ly help iden­ti­fy the most suc­cess­ful oper­at­ing prac­tices for these vehi­cles.

FAA Unmanned Air­craft Sys­tem Inte­gra­tion Office pro­gram man­ag­er Brad Drake, left, tracks flight path data as NASA project oper­a­tions engi­neer Andrew Guion pro­vides for­mu­las to NASA research pilot Wayne Ringel­berg Sept.19 in Mari­na, Cal­i­for­nia. In the back­ground, Joby Aviation’s Ryan Naru and NASA part­ner demon­stra­tion lead Ger­rit Ever­son observe the work in the Joby S4 sim­u­la­tor. (cred­it: Joby/NASA)

NASA’s research pilots and engi­neers are also using the data to pro­duce autopi­lot code and nav­i­ga­tion infor­ma­tion spe­cif­ic to air taxis for air­borne nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem data­bas­es. This code has been built in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the FAA, whose rep­re­sen­ta­tives were present at the tri­als as part of the two agen­cies’ broad­er part­ner­ship on AAM.  

Data and results from these efforts will be released to the pub­lic in the form of a series of tech­ni­cal papers, assist­ing the indus­try in mov­ing for­ward. 

For more infor­ma­tion



(Top image: NASA research pilots David Zahn, left, and Wayne Ringle­berg at the con­trols of Joby Avi­a­tion’s S4 sim­u­la­tor enter­ing and test­ing flight path data to devel­op nav­i­ga­tion codes — cred­it Joby/NASA)

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