Joby and NASA run demo of air taxi operations in busy airspace

An operator in the NASA air traffic control simulator
Photo Credit: Joby Aviation

Joby Aviation, Inc. (NYSE:JOBY), a company developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for commercial passenger service and air taxi operations, has successfully completed a series of air traffic simulations with NASA’s Ames Research Center.

The purpose of the simulation was to determine how air taxi operations can be integrated into today’s airspace, including at busy airports, using existing air traffic control (ATC) tools and procedures.

This marks an important step in the development and integration of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for commercial passenger services.

Simulating Air Taxi Operations


The simulations, a result of years of collaboration and a comprehensive airspace study, delved into various scenarios involving dozens of eVTOL aircraft navigating the complex airspace of the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region.

Conducted at NASA’s Future Flight Central, an advanced virtual tower facility, the simulations provided a 360-degree view of real-time airport scenarios.

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Engineers from both NASA and Joby, alongside pilots and air traffic controllers, meticulously simulated traffic patterns at Dallas Love Field (DAL) and DFW airports, accurately reflecting the challenges of a complex and busy airspace.

Pushing the Boundaries


In a significant display of capability, participating teams of controllers virtually tested the integration of up to 120 eVTOL operations—arrivals or departures—per hour from DFW’s Central Terminal Area.

This testing occurred alongside the airport’s existing traffic, with up to 45 simulated eVTOL aircraft simultaneously navigating DFW’s Class B airspace during the simulations.

Tom Prevot, Air Taxi Product Lead at Joby, expressed the significance of this achievement, stating,

“Working alongside our NASA colleagues, we have now demonstrated in a real-world simulation how air taxi operations can take place in today’s airspace system, alongside active airport traffic, using tools and procedures currently available to air traffic controllers.”

A Joby Aviation eVTOL air taxi flies in New York City
Photo Credit: Joby Aviation

Adapting Existing Procedures


During the simulations, controllers implemented highly-structured routes and procedures currently employed in busy low-altitude airspace regions.

This included the utilization of Letters of Agreement and dedicated controller positions to scale air taxi operations without disrupting existing air traffic.

The success of these simulations showcases the viability of integrating innovative air taxi operations into the current airspace structure.

FAA and NATCA Observations


The magnitude of this achievement did not go unnoticed, as representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) were invited to observe the simulations.

Their presence speaks to the collaborative nature of this initiative and the commitment to transparently share insights with regulatory bodies.

A Joby Aviation eVTOL aircraft hovering.
Image Credit: Joby Aviation

Future Analysis and Industry Impact


As a result of the successful simulations, NASA will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the results in the coming year.

This data will be shared with the industry and the FAA, providing valuable insights into the potential of air taxi operations on a larger scale.

 Joby Aviation’s dedication to redefining the possibilities in air travel positions them at the forefront of innovation, paving the way for the scaled commercialization of air taxis in the National Airspace System.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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