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Delta invests in Joby and home-to-airport drone service

Air taxi service slated to begin in New York, Los Angeles

Joby's unmanned aircraft, pictured, resembles a helicopter and can hold multiple human passengers (Photo: Joby)

Nobody likes a layover. Those hours spent at the airport would be better spent in Aruba, Jamaica or whatever destination you’re headed to.

But very soon there could be a different kind of connecting flight — one that you won’t want to pass up.

That’s because Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) on Tuesday announced a multiyear partnership with Joby Aviation Inc. (NYSE: JOBY), a Santa Cruz, California-based company that builds an autonomous, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) drone that has been described as an air taxi.

Joby’s aircraft is designed to move people, like something out of “The Jetsons.” Delta plans to use it, first in New York and Los Angeles and later in other cities in the U.S. and U.K., to shuttle passengers to and from the airport over short ranges.

As part of the agreement, Delta made an upfront equity investment in Joby of $60 million for a 2% stake, with the potential for the figure to swell to $200 million should certain incentives be met. The initial partnership will last five years but may be extended.

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“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,” said Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta.

Bastain sees the service not only as a sustainable option for Delta, but as a time-saving solution for passengers. As he explained to CNBC, “We’ll flash them an opportunity to enhance that experience by taking a Joby vehicle from someplace close to their home or their business right into the airport experience and cut out 50%, if not more, of their travel time on the ground.”

Joby’s aircraft is pictured to scale alongside human engineers. (Photo: Joby)

Delta wants to integrate Joby’s home-to-airport service with its flight booking portal to create a seamless experience for customers. Though the offering is not yet available, customers will in theory be able to book transportation to and from the airport alongside their flights.

“We share Delta’s unwavering commitment to delivering seamless and sustainable journeys to customers,” said JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby. “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.”

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Joby’s aircraft in May received a Part 135 Air Carrier Certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, which allows it to operate on demand without a waiver. The firm is still seeking Type and Production certificates to get its drone approved for full commercial operations.

With Delta’s investment in Joby, the three largest airlines in the U.S. have now all put money into air taxi technology. American Airlines invested $25 million in U.K.-based Vertical Aerospace, placing an order of 50 eVTOL aircraft.

United Airlines, meanwhile, has made two such deals: a $15 million investment in Eve Air Mobility and a $10 million investment in Archer Aviation. It placed orders of 200 and 100 aircraft from the two companies, respectively.

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Jack Daleo

Jack is a staff writer for FreightWaves and Modern Shipper covering topics like last mile delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. He studied at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Previously, Jack has written for Backpacker Magazine and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and all things basketball.