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American eVTOL pioneer Joby Aviation is accelerating its path to FAA type certification, today unveiling a second pre-production prototype that's already approved to join the company's flight test program. It'll take its first flights later this month.

Joby is targeting 2024 as the launch date for its electric air taxi service, but still needs to climb the mountain of commercial certification – among many other daunting peaks – before it can take passengers. A large part of this campaign will be about putting lots of hours on its flight-testing prototypes, as the company and the authorities work to understand these novel tilt-prop transitioning aircraft and figure out how to make them every bit as safe as an airliner.

This California-based company has been on the bleeding edge of eVTOL technology for more than a decade now, being one of the first companies driving the frenzied wave of eVTOL development that's broken in the last couple of years. There are a lot of ideas out there, but basically no other company in the United states that can claim to have so much testing already under its belt.
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Joby's first prototype S4 air taxi flew more than 5,300 miles (8,530 km) last year, and has more than 1,000 test-flight notches on its belt. It's one of the few transitioning eVTOLs today that have been publicly shown handling takeoff, hover, the transition to horizontal winged flight and back again, and landing. What's more, the S4 has proven its claims of a 150-plus mile (240-plus km) range, by undertaking what is believed to be the longest eVTOL flight ever, at 154.6 miles (248.8 km) – although it did so without the considerable weight of any humans on board.

The new prototype, having already received FAA Special Airworthiness Certification and US Air Force Airworthiness Approval, will join the flight test program by the end of the month. It's going to the US Air Force, where it'll be flown as part of Joby's contract with the Agility Prime program – the American military's effort to accelerate the country's most promising electric VTOL programs so Chinese companies like eHang don't get too far ahead.

"Our 2021 flight test program delivered a wealth of information and experience to support our program," says Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt. "With two aircraft flying at the same time, we’ll be able to increase the speed of our learnings as planned, while continuing to fulfill the requirements of our Agility Prime contract. We’re grateful to the US Air Force for our ongoing relationship and support and to the FAA for continuing to foster innovation in the aviation industry."

Source: Joby Aviation