Joby Aviation’s vision of air ridesharing could make your commute five times faster – and cleaner, safer and better for your city. Read on to find out more about the Joby S4.
Sharing Ride-Sharing – The Joby Perspective on UAM
By: Dawn MK Zoldi, guest author
This week at Electric & Hybrid Aerospace Technology Virtual ‘Living,‘ Gregor Veble Mikić, Head of Flight Physics at Joby Aviation, explained eVTOL S4’s aircraft and business model, which is worth more than $ 6 billion and climbing.
Mikić described the S4 as “the distillation of many development efforts over the past 10 years”. It has a range of over 240 km at a speed of over 340 km / h. Seating for 5 people (1 pilot + 4 passengers), low acoustic signature (65 dB (A) at 100 m hover) and “triple redundancy at the airline level in terms of safety”.
The company’s vision is to launch a vertically integrated ground-based taxi service like Uber for cars on a global scale, but which “offers aerial ridesharing to unleash the 3rd dimension of traffic”. Mikić says that in large metropolitan areas, driving will be five times faster than driving. Even better, the infrastructure is a fraction of the cost of developing a rail or highways.
In order to make this vision a reality, there are important goals for the vehicle‘s design included: safety, noise, payload, range and speed. According to Mikić, “Safety is a tough constraint and everyone else is relevant to profitability.” Noise, he explained, is crucial because they want this aircraft to be accessible to people. The reach determines the size of the potential market. Speed increases the passenger benefit and the utilization of the vehicle.
The vehicle is complex because it must provide thrust in other aspects of flight, both when hovering and in forward direction. They decided to use the same propulsion systems for both, resulting in a clean airframe with superior performance in range and speed, with safety first. In terms of safety, they designed the vehicle for redundancy. The fact that engines must be used for both lifting and steering posed unique challenges for redundancy in the event of a loss of flight. To overcome this, they used six rotors to ensure minimal redistribution of power in the event of failure. They also contained multiple batteries attached to multiple rotors to optimize elasticity.
Propellers were also vital as they control both power and acoustics. When hovering, the vehicle must provide efficient thrust with a low acoustic signature. This is influenced by the top speed of the propeller. However, reducing the top speed often affects the efficiency of the forward flight. Joby mainly focused on the acoustics but, according to Mikić, was still able to incorporate efficiency for forward flight due to his unique design of the anti-tip shape and the placement of the blades.
Finally, Joby increases security by using automation in most of its systems. They designed the aircraft for automatic reconfiguration in the event of a component loss of function. Automation also reduces the workload on pilots so they can focus on the flight rather than system management, which also increases flight safety. Simplified vehicle operations, including attitude control or hovering the station, were central design principles for controlling the vehicle so that the pilot could focus on navigation and higher-level aviation tasks. “Increasing automation puts us on the path to complete autonomy,” says Mikić.
Will Joby soon have a lift in a city near you? Difficult to say, but clear, Joby has the vision, the capital and the plane to make this happen.
Dawn MK Zoldi (Colonel, USAF, retired) is a licensed attorney with 28 years of active military and federal service in the Air Force Department. She is an internationally recognized expert on the law and politics of unmanned aircraft systems, the columnist Law-Tech Connect ™ for the magazine Inside Unmanned Systems, recipient of the Woman to Watch in UAS (Leadership) Award 2019 and CEO of P3 Tech Consulting LLC. You can find more information on their website at: https://www.p3techconsulting.com.