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What just happened? What could be a major step toward the flying taxi era has been taken after Joby Aviation announced it will invest up to $500 million to build a new facility mass-producing the vehicles in Dayton, Ohio.
Electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL aircraft, have been advancing at a rapid pace over the last few years. It's expected to be an industry worth $57 billion by 2035, which likely played a part in Joby Aviation's decision to build its first serial production facility, located on a 140-acre site at Dayton International Airport. The company previously built prototypes at its pilot production line in California.
"For a hundred years, the Dayton area has been a leader in aviation innovation," said Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. "But capturing a large-scale manufacturer of aircraft has always eluded the local economy there. With this announcement, that aspiration has been realized."
Joby's production electric aircraft will have a pilot and is designed to hold four passengers, reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, and have a maximum range of 100 miles.
The company says the noise produced by its eVTOL craft is barely audible against the background of the city, and it hopes to use them in aerial ridesharing networks from 2025. The rides are expected to be priced similarly to those of an Uber. Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said, "We will be operating the service in partnership with Delta, flying to and from cities and airports." Delta said that the agreement will offer customers a "differentiated, premium experience."
Bevirt told Reuters that the company is "driving vigorously" to win Federal Aviation Administration certification for the vehicles.
Joby will be hiring immediately for the existing buildings at the Dayton site. Construction of the new production facility will begin in 2024, with operations to start in 2025.
The company said that eventually, the site could accommodate manufacturing facilities that take up more space than the Pentagon, support 2,000 jobs, and the production of 500 aircraft per year. It is putting $500 million of its own cash into the project. The state of Ohio and several political organizations have offered up to $325 million in incentives and benefits to develop the site.
While Ohio didn't offer the largest financial package of incentives, Bevirt told the AP that the state was chosen for its aviation links – the first practical airplane originated in Ohio thanks to brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright. There's also an experienced workforce in place.
"Ohio is the No. 1 state when it comes to supplying parts for Boeing and Airbus," Bevirt said. "Ohio is No. 3 in the nation on manufacturing jobs – and that depth of manufacturing prowess, that workforce, is critical to us as we look to build this manufacturing facility."
As noted by Insider, investment and orders in the eVTOL industry are ramping up at a rapid pace. United Airlines placed a $1 billion order for Archer's Midnight eVTOL in 2021, while Delta Air Lines invested $60 million into Joby Aviation in 2022.