The aim is to integrate these vehicles into the current aviation regulations and to ensure that the new aircraft are accepted by the community. NASA began testing Joby Aviation’s all-electric eVTOL vertical take-off and landing vehicle on Monday, according to a press release from the space agency. This test is the first phase of NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility/AAM national campaign, which has several important implications that we’ll come back to in a moment, but for now, let’s get clear on what AAM is! AAM is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of airborne systems, from baggage drones to air taxis to medical transport devices, all of which have in common that we rarely run into them nowadays, but they are being developed at a rapid pace.
NASA’s aim is to collect as much data as possible on the performance and acoustics (the noise generated by the aircraft) of these vehicles, which can be used to model and simulate the various types of future airborne vehicles. It is also a good initiative to identify the various regulatory gaps in the current FAA/FAA regulation that could be filled to allow AAM aircraft to be integrated into the national airspace. The campaign will take place over several years and in several locations. After the data collected during the current test, the first series of tests (NC-1) could be launched in 2022, in which other companies’ equipment will be tested in more complex aerial conditions than those currently in place.
Joby’s vehicle will be tested at the company’s base until 10 September and is a historic event in that it is the first time NASA has tested such an eVTOL device, which could be used as an air taxi in the future. The space agency is essentially looking at three things: how the machine moves, what sound effects accompany its operation and how it communicates with the controller that controls it. To study the noise exposure, the space agency is deploying a mobile facility equipped with more than 50 microphones to test the sound of the device in different flight positions of the air taxi. Instruments from future partners will be subjected to similar tests.
Joby Aviation’s founding CEO, JoeBen Bevirt, said the NASA initiative was “critically” important in terms of helping to understand the behaviour of eVTOL from a scientific perspective and to help bring these instruments to the wider public.