Dubai is set to become the first place in the world to offer travelers flights on air taxis after its transport authority agreed a deal with eVTOL aircraft maker Joby and vertiport provider Skyports Infrastructure.
An agreement between Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA), Skyports and Joby gives the former exclusive rights to build and operate vertiports in Dubai, and the latter the exclusive right to operate air taxis in Dubai for six years.
The partnership could see services start as early as next year, making Dubai the first place to host a commercial, city-wide electric air taxi service.
Joby eVTOL aircraft
Under the agreement with Dubai’s RTA, Joby will manufacture, certify and operate eVTOL air taxis in Dubai. Skyports will design, construct, own and operate the vertiports used by Joby’s eVTOLs across the Emirate, while RTA will oversee and regulate the air taxi service.
Joby’s five-seat battery-electric eVTOL aircraft can carry four passengers at speeds of up to 200mph (320km/h), and has a range of 150 miles (240 km). The California, USA-based company started piloted flight tests in October 2023.
Joby is one of the furthest forward eVTOL aircraft developers, with the company’s aircraft being certified in the USA under regulator FAA’s Part 21-17B.
The first Joby eVTOL aircraft are being built in Marina, California, which is increasing production capacity from 4 to up to 50 aircraft a year. The firm is also building a larger factory in Dayton, Ohio capable of manufacturing up to 500 aircraft a year that is expected to open in 2025.
Joby has established a company in Dubai and plans to recruit locally for its operational team. The company will also consider localization of other global business activities in Dubai and across the region.
JoeBen Bevirt, CEO and founder, Joby Aviation said, “Today’s landmark agreement delivers on all three ingredients required to successfully launch an air taxi service – a definitive path to operations, well-placed infrastructure supported by dedicated partners, and an aircraft with the capacity and range to deliver meaningful journeys.
“We are looking forward to delivering an incredible experience for residents and visitors to Dubai as early as 2025 and we’re excited to be laying the groundwork for the expansion of our service across the wider UAE.”
Skyports is to build four vertiports: at Dubai International Airport, the Palm Jumeirah hotel, Dubai Downtown and Dubai Marina.
The consortium expects the service to reduce journey times significantly, with a typical journey from Dubai Airport to the Palm Jumeirah expected to take 10 minutes by air taxi compared with 45 minutes by car.
The consortium will also work to ensure that the air taxi network integrates with RTA’s public transport network to facilitate intermodal travel.
Skyports Infrastructure has positioned itself as a provider of vertiports and is also providing Vertiports for eVTOL aircraft operations in Paris during this year’s Olympics and recently bought a heliport in London it plans to offer as an eVTOL aircraft vertiport. The company has been working closely with Joby since 2022.
Detailed studies have been completed at the four locations and architectural design has commenced for the first phase of development. Vertiport certification and approval process has begun with the General Civil Aviation Authority, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Dubai Air Navigation Services (dans) and other critical government stakeholders.
Duncan Walker, founder and CEO of Skyports said, “Today marks a step towards the launch of commercial air taxi services in Dubai. The industry has never been closer to making it a reality.
“With the agreement signed, now begins the exciting part – designing and building our vertiports.”