The same area where the Wright brothers developed the first airplane will soon see electric planes that take off and land vertically.
The planes, called "flying taxis" will be produced under an agreement between the state of Ohio and Joby Aviation at Dayton International Airport.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine told The Associated Press, "When you're talking about air taxis, that's the future."
Around the world, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, or flying taxis, are becoming more common. Still, questions remain about noise levels and charging demands.
Developers say the planes are nearing the day when they will provide a way to move individual people or small groups from the top of buildings and parking spaces to their destinations.
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, lived and worked in Dayton, Ohio. In 1910, they opened the first U.S. airplane factory there. To connect with this history, Joby's official announcement Monday took place at Orville Wright's home, Hawthorn Hill, and ended with a special flight of a copy of the Wright Model B Flyer.
Engineers designed Joby's production aircraft to transport a pilot and four passengers at speeds of up to 321.87 kilometers per hour. The aircraft can cover a distance of up to 160.93 kilometers. It is a quiet machine that can barely be heard in most cities, the company said. The plan is to place them in aerial ridesharing networks beginning in 2025.
Joby Aviation is a 14-year-old company that went public in 2021 and became the first eVTOL firm to receive a special kind of permission, or certification, from the U.S. Air Force. Its production efforts are supported by partnerships with Toyota, Delta Air Lines, Intel and Uber.
The $500 million project is supported by up to $325 million in payments from the state of Ohio. With the money, Joby plans to build an Ohio facility capable of delivering up to 500 aircraft a year and creating 2,000 jobs. The U.S. Department of Energy has invited Joby to apply for a loan to support development of the facility as a clean energy project.
Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt told the AP that the company chose Ohio after a large and competitive search. Ohio's financial deal was not the largest, but the chance to bring the operation to the birthplace of aviation — with a workforce experienced in the field — led to the deal, he said.
The announcement comes as a group of Ohio's congressional representatives has recently increased efforts to draw the U.S. Air Force's new U.S. Space Command headquarters or Space Force units to Ohio. There, too, state leaders point to the history of the Wrights, as well as Ohio-born astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.
I'm John Russell.