New York Unveils Plans For eVTOLs As Joby, Volocopter Fly In

At a Nov. 13 event featuring flights by Joby Aviation and Volocopter electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) prototypes, the New York City government announced plans to upgrade the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to support electric air taxis.

The government has released a request for proposals (RFP) for an operator for the city-owned heliport, and plans to enter into a concession agreement in the second quarter of 2024 for an initial five-year term with three additional five-year options to renew.

The selected operator will be required to invest in, install and activate within the initial five-year term the necessary infrastructure to support eVTOL vehicles as well as equip the site for secondary maritime freight and micro-distribution use as a transportation hub.

A key objective of the short piloted flights by Joby’s preproduction S4 tiltprop and Volocopter’s multicopter 2X prototypes was to showcase the low noise of eVTOL vehicles compared to the helicopters that now use the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.

“As part of their proposal, respondents must detail mechanisms intended to incorporate and incentivize use of quieter high-stage helicopters (ie. Stage 3 helicopters) as well as eVTOL technology upon FAA certification,” the RFP says.

The contract to operate the Downtown Manhattan Heliport will be issued by the New York City Economic Development Corp. (EDC). “And while EDC does not control all of the heliports throughout New York City, and we certainly don’t control the New Jersey heliports where the majority of tour helicopter traffic comes from, we do control this heliport and we control the one on 34th Street and we’re going to embrace this new technology at both,” Andrew Kimball, EDC president and CEO, said at the event.

A Charge Cube provided by Beta Technologies was also on display at the heliport. Beta has partnered with rival eVTOL developer Archer Aviation to deploy an interoperable fast-charging system across the electric aircraft industry, based on the automotive Combined Charging System standard. Joby is promoting a rival ultrafast charging system that it developed internally.

Joby conducted its first flight from the heliport on Nov. 12 after several days of preparation flights at the HHI Heliport in Kearny, New Jersey. This marked Joby’s first flight in an urban setting. The startup plans to launch service in New York in 2025 with Delta Air Lines. Delta and Joby are working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the EDC to develop infrastructure at JFK and LaGuardia International Airports.

Volocopter expects to be ready to operate in New York in 2025, Managing Director Christian Bauer said at the event. The German startup has now flown the 2X prototype in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Las Vegas, Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Tampa and New York, where it also conducted its first flight on Nov. 12. The company expects European certification of its production VoloCity eVTOL in 2024 and plans to launch commercial services at next year’s Paris Olympics.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.