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Delta Air Lines throws $60m at flying taxi startup Joby Aviation

Will fly passengers to and from city airports, if it ever takes off

The fledgling flying taxi industry has been given another vote of confidence with a $60 million investment from US airline Delta in Joby Aviation.

The sum will give Delta a 2 percent stake in Joby, which counts Uber Technologies among its investors, with the potential to grow to $200 million if the service reaches certain development milestones.

The idea is that Joby vehicles will take passengers to and from airports, skipping the road traffic leading to America's busiest terminals. The partnership aims to provide customers "the opportunity to reserve a seat for seamless, zero-operating-emission, short-range journeys to and from city airports when booking Delta travel" in New York and Los Angeles.

Joby's focus is eVTOLS, electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, an approach typical to the surprisingly busy flying taxi startup circuit. And Delta isn't the only carrier getting in on the business. Earlier this year, American Airlines pre-ordered 50 similar craft from Joby competitor Vertical Aerospace.

Joby claims its six-engine vehicle has zero operating emissions, a 150-mile (241km) range, a top speed of 200mph (322kph), and can carry one pilot and four passengers. It uses the example of cutting a 49-minute drive from central NYC to JFK Airport down to just seven minutes.

"Joby's aircraft is designed to fly fast, quiet and sustainable trips in and around cities," the company said. "The aircraft has flown more than 1,000 test flights, demonstrating its range, speed, altitude and low noise profile."

It also boasts of being the first eVTOL company to be granted a G-1 (Stage 4) Certification Basis for its aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration and recently received its Part 135 Air Carrier Certification.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said of the deal: "Delta always looks forward and embraces opportunities to lead the future, and we've found in Joby a partner that shares our pioneering spirit and commitment to delivering innovative, seamless experiences that are better for our customers, their journeys, and our world.

"This is a groundbreaking opportunity for Delta to deliver a time-saving, uniquely premium home-to-airport solution for customers in key markets we've been investing and innovating in for many years."

Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt added: "We share Delta's unwavering commitment to delivering seamless and sustainable journeys to customers. Their history of innovation, along with their vast operational expertise and leadership on climate change, make them incredible partners for Joby, and it's an honor to be working alongside them."

However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows in flying taxi land. Larry Page-backed startup Kittyhawk last month wound down, though its technology lives on in another Joby competitor, Wisk Aero, by virtue of a joint venture with Boeing.

Although eVTOLs demonstrably work, they need infrastructure, integration with air traffic, and regulation. Joby envisions its technology operating out of city heliports, but until those start popping up and running flights, the flying taxi is all dressed up with nowhere to go. ®

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