Meet George Jetson: Cartoons lied to us. Weren’t we supposed to have flying cars zipping us to work by now? Well, better late than never. New York announced plans to upgrade its electric vehicle infrastructure, including charging stations for air taxis. At least one company plans to take to Manhattan skies by 2025.
On Monday, transportation startup Joby Aviation conducted a demo flight of its six-prop electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in New York City. The exhibition was part of a press conference held by NYC Mayor Eric Adams.
Joby’s air taxis are not currently autonomous. Veteran pilot James “Buddy” Denham performed the demo flight. Denham is Joby’s chief test pilot for its onboard testing phase, which started in early October. Up until then, Joby conducted test flights remotely from the ground. The startup is currently in the third of five stages of FAA certification.
Currently, the Manhattan heliport does not have the infrastructure to support electric flights. However, Mayor Adams promised the city was working on this.
“Today, we are taking sustainability to the sky and our streets, and New Yorkers can feel the electricity in the air in our city as we electrify our heliport infrastructure,” Adams said. “Our vision for the Downtown Manhattan Heliport will create the world’s first heliport with infrastructure for electric-powered aircraft and put this public asset to work for New Yorkers as a hub for sustainable transportation and local deliveries.”
If everything goes accordingly, Joby plans to offer commercial flights to and from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to JFK Airport by 2025. The trip should only take about seven minutes, with a five-minute pause to recharge the eVTOL at the heliport.
However, its plans partly depend on city officials selecting it as its official eVTOL provider. Rival air taxi startup Volocopter is also in the running to offer commercial flights in New York. It has an 18-prop two-seater fully autonomous eVTOL that has logged over 2,000 test flights. However, whether the public and city officials are ready for autonomous air vehicles is debatable.
Whether the public is ready or not, Mayor Adams has dreams of the New York skyline filled with autonomous and piloted eVTOLs – even ones flown by everyday civilians.
“You know, within our lifetime, many of you are going own your own personal electric helicopter,” Adams predicted.
However, he also indirectly acknowledged that fear might be the biggest hurdle facing these dreams.
“I can’t thank Andrew, EDC, and our amazing deputy mayor enough for realizing that we cannot be afraid of the future,” the mayor said. “This must be a city of yes where we lean into the possibilities of not only what we do on the ground, but what we do in our skies.”