Joby Aviation and Volocopter gave the public a vivid glimpse of what the future of aviation might look like this weekend, with both companies performing brief demonstration flights of their electric aircraft in New York City.
The demonstration flights were conducted during a press conference on Sunday, during which New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city would electrify two of the three heliports located in Manhattan – Downtown Manhattan Heliport and East 34th Street. (The third heliport is privately owned.) Beta Technologies, which is also developing an electric aircraft, showed off its interoperable aircraft charging technology at the event.
The move is a huge win for so-called “electric vertical take-off and landing” (eVTOL) developers, who will likely need hefty public investment in order to get their commercial air taxi service off the ground by the middle of the decade. Some of this investment has already started to materialize: in September, Joby announced that it would site its new aircraft factory in Dayton, Ohio, in a deal sweetened by upwards of $325 million in state incentives and benefits.
The eVTOL industry is benefitting from some major tailwinds – notably, climate commitments from dozens of cities, including New York City, to aggressively reduce carbon emissions and transition to clean energy. New York City’s aim is to reduce emissions by 80% from a 2005 baseline by 2050 – and electrifying the two heliports under its jurisdiction is one part of that.
Joby Aviation has had New York City in mind for some time. In October last year, the company announced that it would roll out its commercial service in New York and Los Angeles first, as part of a landmark “city-to-airport” service deal with its investor Delta Airlines. Joby estimated that the service could shrink the transit time from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport to just seven minutes.