Next-generation aircraft developer Joby says it has applied for design certification of its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) plane in Japan, which is expected to be a particularly promising market for urban air mobility (UAM) activities.
In its communiqué Tuesday, Joby said it had filed a request with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) to validate the type certification of its eVTOL craft issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last May – a milestone in its work to develop the plane for full authorization and launch in UAM services by mid-decade. Joby described its application to the JCAB “the first of its type.”
If indeed unprecedented, timing of the initiative was likely not coincidental with yesterday’s announcement by the FAA and JCAB of their agreement to work together on harmonizing certification of next-generation aircraft.
The move reflects similar efforts afoot between the FAA and regulators in the UK and Australia respectively, and the UK and European Union to streamline, or even sync the criteria and timelines used for approving eVTOL craft like Joby’s heading toward UAM operation around the world.
Joby – which has also begun the certification process in the UK for its five-passenger, piloted, emission-free eVTOL plane – is eager to stake out an early position in what’s expected to be a fruitful but likely crowdedUAM market.
“With 92% of residents living in urban areas, we have a spectacular opportunity to save people time in congested cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka while also reducing their impact on the environment,” said Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt. “We’re incredibly excited about the potential for electric aerial ridesharing to offer a new form of clean and affordable urban and regional connectivity across Japan.”
The turn to Japan is also driven by logic internal to the company’s partnerships. Automotive giant Toyota threw its weight behind Joby’s push to develop battery-powered eVTOL back in 2018, providing manufacturing advice and a hefty $400 million in financial support.
Earlier this year, meanwhile, Joby struck deals with ANA Holdings Inc., Japan’s largest airline, to launch UAM services in the country. The company is also a member of Japan’s Public-Private Conference for the Future Air Mobility Revolution, an organization overseen by the nation’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.
Joby’s eVTOL application in Japan – combined with the FAA-JCAB streamlining agreement – should also take some steam out of the offensive by a hostile New York hedge fund shorting company stock on claims the startup vastly overstated its capacity to produce and fly UAM aircraft, and wouldn’t obtain requisite certification to fly them in a timely manner.
That skepticism of the company and capacities was earlier undermined by news last week Delta Airlines had partnered with Joby to offer future home-to-airport air taxi services to premium clients.