Joby sets new record with 154.6-mile eVTOL flight
Joby has flown a new record distance for a full-sized eVTOL aircraft on a single battery charge, covering 154.6 miles (249 km) in a single 77-minute flight, complete with energy-gobbling vertical takeoff and landing phases.
Remote-piloted from the ground by the company's Chief Test Pilot Justin Paines, the aircraft took off from Joby's Electric Flight Base in Big Sur, California, then transitioned to winged flight and completed 11 laps of a round circuit before coming in to land.
In doing so, Joby put some real-world validation behind its promised 150-plus mile range, showing that such figures are indeed possible using today's commercially available lithium-ion batteries. "While we still have plenty more testing to do, achieving this milestone is an important validation of our technology," said Paines, "and I’m incredibly proud to have played a small part in what is, to our knowledge, the longest all-electric eVTOL flight performed to date."
eVTOLs place extraordinary demands on batteries, requiring huge power density during the vertical lift flight phases and huge energy density to allow any decent sort of range figure. Joby says it has gone with an 811 NMC cathode and a graphite anode cell, and believes after lab testing that its battery packs will fly more than 10,000 "expected nominal flight cycles" in the life of a production aircraft.
"Since the day I joined Joby four years ago," said Jon Wagner, Head of Powertrain and Electronics, "we’ve worked hard to maximize the energy efficiency of this aircraft and prove what we have always known to be possible with today’s battery technology. With the right cell chemistry and a lot of hard work across the entire engineering team, we’ve been able to create a remarkably efficient aircraft that can make the most of today’s commercially available batteries."
It's important to note that this distance record was flown with an empty cabin; production versions will need to lift five passengers plus luggage, adding a very significant amount of weight to the airframe that'll push the propulsion system a lot harder. It'd be fascinating to know how Joby's prototype is performing with dummy loads – and indeed how this affects the aircraft's noise profile.
It's unclear when we can expect to see fully manned flights in these things; eHang has been zooming people around in China, seemingly unfettered by regulators, and Volocopter today released footage of its first manned flight on US soil, but as yet most of the major players are still flying their aircraft on remote control.
Check out a (greatly shortened) video of Joby's long-distance flight below.
Source: Joby Aviation