By Graham Chandler

Freelance writer Graham Chandler is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and has been writing on aviation topics for more than 20 years.

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Transatlantic collaboration aims to smooth the certification path for eVTOL developers

When the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced at March’s Global Urban Advanced Air Summit (GUAAS) that their respective organizations were working together to support future eVTOL aircraft, Joby Aviation was particularly pleased.

LA Uber Vertiport
The joint regulatory efforts between the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) promises to smooth the way for eVTOL companies such as Joby Aviation. Uber Image

“We welcomed the news from the FAA and the CAA announcing their joint approach to eVTOL regulation, paving the way for the validation of our type certificate in the U.K. once our aircraft is approved by the FAA,” said Greg Bowles, head of government and regulatory affairs at the California-based company.

Joby is developing a five-seat eVTOL aircraft that it intends to get certified with the FAA next year and begin commercial operations in the U.S. in 2024. Bowles told eVTOL.com that outside of North America, Joby believes the U.K. has the potential to be a very successful international market for future operations.

“To help with that work, we’ve established a U.K. entity,” he said. “And to assist us with further connections in the region, we have become members of ADS [Group]. Joining ADS will help support the successful launch of fast, clean, and convenient air taxi services across the U.K.”

Bowles said Joby has also engaged with the U.K. CAA and NATS (National Air Traffic Services) on a regulatory path for validating Joby’s aircraft and airspace integration. Joby is also one of the founding members of the U.K. CAA’s eVTOL Safety Leadership Group, established last year to consider safety issues related to deploying eVTOL operations.

“We believe these steps will lay the groundwork for Joby to succeed long term in the market,” Bowles said. “Formal commercial partnerships in the U.K. are forthcoming.”

Joby doesn’t plan on selling into the consumer market, but intends to “deploy our aircraft ourselves as part of an on-demand, aerial ridesharing service, delivering not just an innovative aircraft to the market, but also an innovative business model,” Bowles said.

As part of its acquisition of Uber Elevate in 2020, “Uber and Joby also agreed to integrate their services into each other’s apps, helping to create a seamless customer experience where an Uber car would bring riders to a [vertiport] just in time for their flight and, if necessary, another car would complete the journey to their final destination,” Bowles explained.

While the eVTOL developer hasn’t made official partnership announcements in the U.K., Joby has already made headway in establishing partnerships in other areas around the world.

“SK Telecom and Joby have been jointly studying the South Korean market opportunity since early 2021 and see significant potential in the market,” Bowles said. “Right now, we’re focused on demonstrating the technology readiness level of the UAM [urban air mobility] ecosystem through the [K-UAM] Grand Challenge. We expect to provide further details in due course.”

Joby also recently announced a partnership with ANA Holdings, Japan’s largest airline, to establish aerial ridesharing service in the country. 

Along with Joby, the joint regulatory effort promises to smooth the way for other eVTOL companies. According to reports from the GUAAS event, CAA policy and strategy director Tim Johnson indicated several eVTOL developers have expressed interest in seeking certification across both aviation authorities.   

U.K.-based Vertical Aerospace, for example, stands to gain from the collaboration as it plans to develop passenger operations and infrastructure in the U.S. with its partner American Airlines.

“There is a significant trend in OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] in the eVTOL market indicating their interest in primary certification and validation exercises involving the U.K. and other international jurisdictions,” Johnson said.

As such, both agencies said they intend to work with other aviation authorities as well. Johnson said the CAA is continually having discussions with regulators globally.

The development of advanced air mobility (AAM) represents an ecosystem wide challenge for the CAA, and the agency has already begun engaging with OEMs and prospective operators on a range of issues, he said. This includes airworthiness certification, flight operations, air operator licensing, airspace integration, ground operations, and wider consumer and public protection issues.

“These discussions take place formally and informally to ensure we’re sharing best practices and are aware of key developments globally, but often will mature into full partnerships driven by a certification and validation program,” Johnson said.

An FAA spokesperson told eVTOL.com that both aviation authorities recognize the potential of eVTOL and other AAM aircraft to significantly benefit the public.

“As our joint statement signifies, both the U.S. and U.K. aviation authorities are committed to working in close collaboration on future eVTOL aircraft development and operation, including a range of bilateral and multilateral discussions focused on facilitating certification and validating new eVTOL aircraft, production, continued airworthiness, operations, and personnel licensing,” the spokesperson said.

As interest in UAM operations grows exponentially, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General announced that it would be auditing the FAA’s certification process starting later this month.

“This new technology promises many benefits for transportation efficiency but also creates new and complex safety challenges for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) aircraft certification process,” according to DOT’s website. “Given the challenges surrounding the certification of UAM aircraft … the audit objective will be to determine FAA’s progress in establishing the basis for certification of UAM aircraft, including ensuring the safety of novel features and providing guidance to applicants.”

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