Joby Aviation eVTOL

Joby eVTOL taxis eye takeoff in Dubai by 2025


The futuristic vision of air taxis gliding between towering skyscrapers might soon become reality in Dubai. Joby Aviation, a leading developer of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, has signed a landmark agreement with the Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) to launch air taxi services in the United Arab Emirates. Though full commercial operations are targeted for 2026, Joby aims for initial tests and demonstrations as early as 2025, piquing the interest of drone enthusiasts and urban mobility observers worldwide.

This potential launch marks a significant step forward not just for Joby but for the eVTOL industry and the entire concept of urban air mobility (UAM).

Joby Aviation famously acquired Uber Elevate back in December 2020. Uber Elevate had lofty ambitions to build flying cars. At one point, it suggested that its “shared air transportation” service, Uber Air, could arrive by 2023. But while Uber Air is no more — and 2023 has since passed — Joby’s outlook is pretty impressive.

Joby evtol aircraft
Concept art courtesy of Joby

Joby to take off in Dubai

The agreement grants Joby exclusive rights to operate air taxis in Dubai for six years starting in 2026. Joby added that it’s targeting initial operations as early as 2025. The agreement actually gives Joby exclusive right to operate air taxis in Dubai for six years.

Additionally, Joby has partnered with Skyports, a leading vertiport developer, to build and operate four initial vertiport sites across the city. These dedicated takeoff and landing infrastructure points are crucial for seamless integration of eVTOLs into urban environments. Their locations are:

  • Dubai International Airport (DXB)
  • Palm Jumeirah
  • Dubai Marina
  • Dubai Downtown
Joby vertiport skyport design rta
Concept art of a Skyport courtesy of Joby

Known for its ambitious technological advancements, Dubai could very well present a perfect testing ground for eVTOL integration. Its dense urban landscape and relatively forward-thinking government could create the ideal conditions for exploring electric air taxis.

And crowded highways make the air the next logical place for transportation. For example, Joby expects that a journey from Dubai International Airport to Palm Jumeirah would take just 10 minutes compared with 45 minutes by car.

About Joby’s eVTOL aircraft

About Joby eVTOL aircraft
Graphic courtesy of Joby

The specific aircraft at hand are Joby’s S4 aircraft. The all-electric, five-seater (that’s four passengers plus a pilot) eVTOL has a claimed range of over 150 miles. It also claims speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.

True to its name, it boasts vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, enabling point-to-point travel without requiring traditional runways. The S4 has already completed numerous test flights and achieved key milestones, like its first piloted flight in October 2023.

Then a month later in November 2023, Joby’s aircraft became the first electric air taxi to fly in New York City. It’s also a compelling American drone company. Joby in June 2023 launched production at its manufacturing facility in California. By September 2023, it delivered the first ever electric air taxi to the U.S. Department of Defense.

And yes, that means these aircraft will have pilots — but that doesn’t mean the news has serious implications for the drone industry.

What Joby’s flights in Dubai mean for drones

Joby vertiport skyport
Concept art courtesy of Joby

This potential launch could be a turning point, showcasing the viability of eVTOL technology and paving the way for wider adoption in cities around the world. For drone enthusiasts and the UAM community, Dubai’s skies might soon offer a glimpse into the future of urban transportation. In this future, sleek, silent eVTOLs might gracefully navigate between skyscrapers. Eventually, that could mean aircraft flying without pilots.

Joby’s learnings will also pave the way for other other companies out there that have explored autonomous air taxis. For example, last year Japan Airlines partnered with Silicon Valley tech startup Wisk Aero to explore bringing self-flying, all-electric air taxi services to Japan. Car maker Hyundai also had its own Urban Air Mobility Division which included displaying a full-scale taxi model at CES in a partnership with then-operational Uber Elevate.

Joby itself is heavily dependent on drones, too. The company is hiring test pilots (as well as test flight interns) with experience in remote UAVs to work on planning and flight testing experimental CTOL/VTOL fly-by-wire aircraft. It’s also hiring software engineers with drone experience to work on flight controls.

Challenges and promises ahead for Joby

While the promise is exciting, hurdles remain. Regulatory approval for commercial eVTOL operations is still evolving globally, and safety considerations are paramount. Public acceptance and the development of robust air traffic management systems are also important factors.

If Joby eventually pivots back to un-piloted aircraft, there’s the added layer of public concern around vehicles that don’t have drivers or pilots. Just look to backlash that autonomous car companies like Waymo have received. After all, did you see the Waymo that vandals set on fire in San Francisco’s Chinatown during Lunar New Year celebrations?.

Despite the challenges, Joby’s ambitious 2025 target in Dubai signifies significant progress in the UAM industry. Initial demonstrations would offer valuable insights into operational feasibility, public perception, and infrastructure needs.

And for what it’s worth, the people with money seem to like it.

Joby, which is a California company based out of Santa Cruz, has been a tech darling in a landscape. That’s all despite the fact that many other tech companies have floundered as of late. Joby went public on the New York Stock Exchange in August 2021 under the ticker symbol “JOBY.” That was after completing a merger with special purpose acquisition company Reinvent Technology Partners. The IPO made Joby the single largest driver of drone-related IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) and/or PIPEs (Private Investment in Public Equity) in 2021. That Joby IPO is also the reason why 2021 hit a record for all-time biggest year for drone investment.

Prior to that, the company had received backing from big mobility players including Toyota and JetBlue.

Now that Joby is on the stock market, regular investors have also shown they like the Dubai news. Joby Aviation shares gained more than 5% on Monday, which was just after it formally announced the Dubai news

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