Joby Aviation secures more funding to show off its aircraft to U.S. military

Electric aircraft flights under Agility Prime to be added for U.S. Marine Corps

California electric aircraft developer Joby Aviation has approximately doubled the value of its ongoing contract to test fly its rotorcraft under the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program, the company announced Wednesday. The additional funds could potentially bring the total to $75 million.

The expansion of the contract means Joby will now test its electric vertical takeoff and landing prototype in conjunction with the U.S. Marine Corps in addition to ongoing work with the Air Force, Army and Navy.

The contract is not just a source of revenue but also provides Joby with critical access to government facilities, data and know-how, Greg Bowles, Joby’s head of government affairs, told me in a phone interview.

Bowles said Joby is not permitted to disclose details of the work done under Agility Prime, but noted that such flight tests and case studies have occurred in conjunction with the military for more than five years. Payment is made upon reaching certain milestones that are not made public, he said.

“These government-directed flights are intended to help the government understand what kind of logistics and operational things these aircraft are capable of, and the data flows both ways,” Bowles said. “Access to government facilities and the data from such flights has been really valuable over the years.”

Joby says its aircraft has a range of 240 kilometers, can transport four passengers with a pilot and achieve speeds up to 320 kph. Examples of test flight scenarios include resupply or relocation of personnel in the field and emergency or medical response, Bowles said.

At least one additional advanced air mobility company, Vermont-located Beta Technologies, has also flown aircraft under the Agility Prime program. The value of Beta’s contract currently is about $50 million, Beta spokeswoman Lexi Pace told me in an email Wednesday.

Bowles said the government’s interest in testing new vertical lift electric aircraft is reminiscent of U.S. interest and flight testing in the early days of American aviation and the dawn of the jet age.

Deploying electric aircraft would allow the military to operate in the field without the logistics and planning issues involved in delivering petroleum fuel, Bowles said. 

“Civil and government uses of these aircraft need to be understood to make sure the U.S. continues to lead in aerospace,” Bowles said.

Joby announced the additional funding Wednesday in advance of its second quarter earnings call with investors on Thursday.

During the call, Joby also provided an update on its work on a production aircraft.

“We built the tail section of our first production-intent aircraft. Assembly of the wing and fuselage are well underway,” Didier Papadopoulos, Joby’s head of aircraft original equipment manufacturing, said during the call. 

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Two people in blue coveralls hold up a large metallic V-shaped object inside an industrial facility. They stand on a concrete floor with a roll-up door in the background.
Joby Aviation shared this photo of two employees holding the completed tail section of the company's first production aircraft in an Aug. 11 letter to shareholders. Credit: Joby Aviation

Joby Aviation secures more funding to show off its aircraft to U.S. military