NASA revealed in an announcement today that it recently began testing an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, a first for the space agency and a move toward bringing ‘air taxis’ to big cities. According to NASA, it will conduct its eVTOL tests through September 10, gathering data on the use of these all-electric aircraft as a potential future transportation option.
The eVTOL currently tested by NASA is called Joby; it is part of the space agency’s Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign, which will eventually be incorporated into the wider National Airspace System. eVTOL aircraft are notable for multiple reasons: they can take off and land vertically, giving them greater flexibility than traditional planes, and they’re powered entirely by electricity.
Air taxis may play an important role in future transportation, particularly for large cities that are dealing with increased traffic congestion and the resulting issues it presents. Air taxis may, for example, one day be an option for transporting groups of people quickly from one side of the city to the other; similarly, they may be useful for transporting goods short distances.
NASA is contributing toward this future transportation method by testing Joby in order to gather data on acoustics and performance. This data will then be leveraged for simulations and modeling systems that explore future concepts related to the technology. The Joby eVTOL was designed as a commercial passenger service, according to NASA.
This initial test paves the way for the first batch of campaign testing (NC-1) scheduled to start next year. During that campaign testing, the technology will face more complex situations and include other ‘industry vehicles,’ NASA explains. The space agency suggests that passengers may participate in these future tests.