Electric ‘flying taxi’ with ‘numerous propellers’ given boost by Toyota

At a private airfield somewhere between Monterey and Santa Barbara in California, you’ll find Joby Aviation’s electric “air taxi,” as JoeBen Bevirt likes to call it.

Bevirt founded Joby nine years ago to develop a short-hop aircraft system and is also the company’s CEO. With a slew of rivals currently clamoring to build their own flying car for personal transportation, competition is tough. But Joby is clearly doing something right as it has just received $100 million in venture funding from several major outfits that include Toyota A.I. Ventures, Intel Capital, and JetBlue Technology Ventures.

Bevirt is pretty secretive about the aircraft’s design (the Joby image above is from 2014), telling a recent visiting Bloomberg reporter not to spill the beans on the “physical specifics” of its working prototype. What we do know is that it’s an “exotic-looking white aircraft with numerous propellers,” suggesting a machine that’s part plane and part drone.

As you’d expect with such a vehicle, it’s capable of a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), with a flight speed twice that of a helicopter. And yes, this is much more than just a pretty prototype that likes to stay close to terra firma — Bloomberg witnessed a demonstration that took the aircraft on a 15-minute flight well beyond the airfield.

The final design is likely to be a five-seat aircraft capable of 150 miles of flight time on a single charge. It also aims to be 100 times quieter during takeoff and landing than conventional aircraft.

Joby Aviation is convinced the skies will one day be busy with small, short-hop aircraft, carrying people across cities in a matter of minutes — and at an affordable price.

“People waste billions of hours sitting on roads worldwide each year,” Bevirt said in a release on Thursday. “We envision a future where commuting by eVTOL is a safer, faster, and cost-competitive alternative to ground transportation.”

He added that backing from “leaders in auto manufacturing, data intelligence, and transportation sectors” means his team is “now ready to build a commercial version of the aircraft.”

With its fresh funds, Joby is now working to expand its team to bring in more experts in areas such as structural engineering, electrical engineering, flight controls, and software.

Mindful of the competition, Bevirt prefers to keep his aircraft under wraps for now, but we’ll be sure to update with images once he finally decides to show off his flying taxi to the world.