US Air Force initiates testing of Joby eVTOL aircraft at Edwards AFB

The U.S. Air Force received a Joby aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base as part of its $131 million Agility Prime contract. The aircraft is designed to carry up to 1,000 pounds of cargo or four passengers and can be operated either remotely or by a pilot.

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US Air Force initiates Testing of Jobys eVTOL Aircraft at Edwards Air Base 925   U.S. Air Force received a Joby aircraft at Edwards AFB as part of its $131 million Agility Prime contract. (Picture source: Joby Aviation)

The Agility Prime program is an initiative to accelerate the development and integration of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technologies into military and civilian operations.

According to available information, Joby's eVTOL aircraft is capable of flying at a cruising speed of 205 mph (330 km/h). It also achieved a 155-mile flight on a single charge in 77 minutes. The battery uses a nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide cathode (811 NMC) and a graphite anode.

For the first few months, the aircraft will be remotely piloted for cargo delivery around the base. Lt. Col. Tom Meagher, division chief for AFWERX Prime, said remote piloting is being used initially to mitigate human risks during testing of the new type of aircraft.

Maj. Phillip Woodhull, director of the Emerging Technologies Integrated Test Force at Edwards, said the aircraft could have several uses. These could range from patrolling the base perimeter to more effective inspections of a 240-square-mile lake used for emergency landings.

The Air Force has contracts with more than a dozen companies to produce aircraft for the Agility Prime program. A second Joby aircraft is expected to arrive next year. Joby expects its eVTOL aircraft to be in commercial operation by 2025.

NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, also located in Edwards, will participate in the testing. The agency plans to work on developing safe flight procedures and air traffic management for such aircraft.