Dubai set to host world’s first flying taxi service with air taxi startup Joby Aviation

Joby Aviation Inc. expects to launch its flying taxi service in Dubai before anywhere else, including the air taxi startup’s home turf in the US

Visitors take pictures of the SK Telecom air taxi developed by US company Joby Aviation during the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the telecom industry’s biggest annual gathering, in Barcelona on February 26, 2024. Dubai set to host world’s first flying taxi service with air taxi startup Joby Aviation. (Photo by PAU BARRENA / AFP)

Joby Aviation Inc. expects to launch its flying taxi service in Dubai before anywhere else, including the startup’s home turf in the US.

Work on a partnership with the Gulf emirate announced earlier this year is “a bit more advanced in the approach that they’re taking” than in other jurisdictions, Joby’s president of operations, Bonny Simi, said in an interview. “So we’ll be able to launch in Dubai first.”

Joby said in February that it was targeting initial operations by 2025 in Dubai, where it won a six-year exclusive agreement to operate its electric air-taxi services, and commercial services by early 2026. That milestone may now be reached as soon as late 2025, Simi said.

Dubai’s government has provided economic support, while regulators have dedicated resources especially to Joby, helping to “remove as many roadblocks as possible for us to move as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” Simi said. The support will help to “de-risk that initial launch for us” financially, she said.

Joby initially plans to establish four vertiports across Dubai for its electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, Simi said. The launch sites include Dubai International Airport, a global hub for air travel; also the man-made island of Palm Jumeirah, downtown Dubai near the Burj Khalifa tower, and the city’s marina.

Rival Archer Aviation Inc. reached a preliminary deal last year with the government of nearby Abu Dhabi, targeting manufacturing and a service launch by 2026. While Joby will have exclusivity for flights contained within Dubai, Archer plans to operate flights between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and across the United Arab Emirates.

Other eVTOL market aspirants have also flocked to oil-rich Gulf states. Lilium NV, Embraer SA’s Eve Air Mobility and Volocopter GmbH have all signed agreements in Saudi Arabia, the UAE or both.

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