The 1980s film “Blue Thunder” featured a helicopter that could switch to “whisper mode” and hover in almost total silence. That bit of Hollywood magic made virtually everyone in the rotorcraft industry chuckle, but a surprising number of viewers believed whisper mode was real. Could some developmental electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) candidates be getting close?
Joby Aviation has joined with NASA in testing one of its eVTOL aircraft as part of the agency’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign. The effort is designed to “promote public confidence in emerging aviation markets, such as passenger air taxis, through flight testing in realistic scenarios and data analysis that will inform the development of regulatory standards for emerging aviation platforms.”
The two-week flight test program will take place at Joby’s Electric Flight Base in California. The tests are dedicated to studying the acoustic signature of the all-electric aircraft. Joby says it expects the aircraft to be ready for commercial passenger service in 2024.
NASA’s Mobile Acoustics Facility will deploy more than 50 pressure ground-plate microphones in a grid array that will take multidirectional readings of the aircraft’s acoustic footprint. NASA and Joby will use the data to analyze the intensity and the character of the eVTOL’s sound and compare its noise signature to those of helicopters, drones and other aircraft.