Joby’s eVTOL Is the First of Its Kind to Be Tested at NASA’s Famous Wind Tunnel

Joby becomes the first eVTOL manufacturer to test its propeller at the famous NFAC 7 photos
Photo: Joby Aviation
Joby's Electric Propeller in the NFAC Wind TunnelJoby eVTOLJoby eVTOLJoby eVTOLJoby eVTOLJoby eVTOL
This California-based eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) is not the only one to claim that it will be ready to kick off commercial operations for its air taxi in just two years. But it’s backed by something that no other competitor has access to: the state-of-art National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex (NFAC) known to be the largest wind tunnel facility in the world.
We’ve heard a lot of great things about Joby Aviation so far, but we didn’t think that its eVTOL would join the ranks of legendary aircraft such as the F-35 fighter jet and the V-22 Osprey. What could they possibly have in common? Well, they were all tested at the NFAC, at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

This is where not just one, but two state-of-the-art wind tunnels that are considered to be the largest in the world, operate. It’s a huge deal for the world of eVTOLs, because the NFAC propeller testing is seen as the gold standard for aircraft aerodynamics. It’s way above conventional flight testing, which would put Joby’s eVTOL far ahead of any other similar air vehicles.

The Californian air taxi maker is about to become the first in this sector to test its propeller at the same facility that was instrumental in the launch of some of the most famous aircraft in history.

Over the next months, an electric propulsion unit and propeller assembly, installed by Joby, will be tested in one of the wind tunnels at NFAC. According to the manufacturer, it will feature a “representative wing section” for analyzing “aerodynamic interference effects,” with specific instruments also measuring the loads on the blades during rotation.

It will be a complex test campaign, unfolding over several months, and Joby will have support not just from NASA, but also from the U.S. Air Force throughout. This is only the culmination of previous projects where the Californian eVTOL maker worked together with these two high-ranking partners. More than that, it even got a former Commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to join its Advisory Board.

With Lt. Gen. (ret) Scott Howell onboard since the beginning of this year, and ready to kick off NCAF wind tunnel testing, Joby seems to be way ahead of its competitors. Although it had its share of bumps in the road (the prototype crash last year made headlines) Joby is working hard for the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) certification.

The air taxi that is now gearing up for wind tunnel tests could start carrying out zero-emission, aerial ridesharing flights in the U.S. as soon as 2025. At the same time, this collaboration is indicating an important development for the NFAC – eVTOLs need to be taken seriously as next-generation types of aircraft.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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