U.S. flying car startup applies for aircraft certification in Japan

Courtesy of Joby Aviation Inc.
A flying car developed by Joby Aviation

U.S. airtaxi firm Joby Aviation Inc. has applied for certification by the Japanese government as the flying car start-up pushes ahead with plans to mass produce its all-electric aircraft.

Backed by Toyota Motor Corp. and other companies, Joby has developed a five-seat vertical take-off and landing aircraft, with a maximum range of about 240 kilometers and a maximum speed of about 320 kph.

At a press conference on Oct. 18 Joby official Justin Lang said the company wants to launch a service linking major cities as soon as possible as Japan is an attractive market in which more than 90% of the population lives in urban areas.

Joby announced a business tie-up with ANA Holdings Inc. in February, with the Japanese carrier providing the U.S. firm with flight management technology and pilot training.

In addition to offering technical support for mass production, Toyota will help with ground services, providing transportation to and from airtaxi ports.

Joby has applied for so-called “type certification” which involves a verification of the performance and strength of aircraft parts. If the aircraft meets the requirements, the manufacturer will be able to begin mass production.

After that, the manufacturer will also have to apply for “airworthiness certification,” which is equivalent to a vehicle inspection and involves checking the structure and strength of each aircraft.

The aircraft can be put into practical use once the company has received both certificates, for which the procedures are almost identical to those for passenger planes, but will involve screening criteria unique to electric aircraft in Joby’s case.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is working out the details of the screening procedures. A ministry official said it is likely to be several years before the certification is issued.

On Oct. 18, Japanese and U.S. aviation authorities agreed to advance cooperation on flying cars. They plan to hold working-level discussions to exchange information and share know-how in a bid to swiftly respond to private-sector efforts.

“Closer cooperation with the United States, which has advanced knowledge in the field, will accelerate the development of the environment for the operation of flying cars in Japan,” Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito said.

Joby is the second flying vehicle manufacturer to apply for type certification after SkyDrive Inc., an Aichi Prefecture-based start-up, which applied in October last year.

The Japanese government wants to have flying cars in operation by 2025.

The competition for development is intensifying around the world. The market is expected to be worth ¥223 trillion in 2040 from ¥1.1 trillion in 2020, according to Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC.