Joby Aviation and Volocopter gave the public a vivid glimpse of what the future of aviation could look like this weekend, with both companies conducting brief demonstration flights of their electric aircraft in New York.
The demonstration flights were carried out on Sunday during a press conference where New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city would electrify two of the three heliports located in Manhattan – Downtown Manhattan Heliport and East 34.th Street. (The third helipad is privately owned.) Beta Technologies, which is also developing an electric plane, demonstrated its interoperable charging technology for planes at the event.
The move is a huge victory for developers of so-called “electric vertical takeoff and landings” (eVTOL), who will likely need significant public investment to get their commercial air taxi service off the ground by mid-decade. Some of that investment has already begun to materialize: In September, Joby announced that it would locate its new aircraft factory in Dayton, Ohio, in a deal sweetened by more than $325 million in state incentives and benefits.
The eVTOL industry is benefiting from some major tailwinds, including climate commitments from dozens of cities, including New York City, to aggressively reduce carbon emissions and transition to clean energy. New York City’s goal is to reduce its emissions by 80% from the 2005 baseline by 2050 – and electrifying the two heliports under its jurisdiction is part of that.
Joby Aviation has had New York in mind for some time. In October last year, the company announced that it would first roll out its commercial service to New York and Los Angeles, as part of a landmark “city-to-airport” service agreement with its investor Delta Airlines . Joby estimated the service could cut transit time from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport to just seven minutes.