Joby Aviation, which promises to build and operate a commercial fleet of aerial taxis by 2024, began trading last week, testing the imaginations of public investors. The shares surged more than 12 percent during the first hour of trading Wednesday.
Since its founding in 2009, Joby has sold the likes of Uber Technologies Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp. on its plan to build a new kind of passenger drone and has raised more than $700 million in private capital. A merger last week with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, leaves Joby with more than double that amount on its balance sheet.
Joby is the biggest among a group of upstarts, which includes Volocopter and Beta Technologies Inc. They're going up against Airbus, Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. by seeking to leverage breakthroughs in battery technology to create a more environmentally friendly form of urban transportation free from earthbound traffic. To succeed in bringing science fiction to life, they need to mass-produce the machines, surmount regulatory hurdles and make the business model work.