Joby Aviation is an aviation startup focused on developing an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The company’s goal is to revolutionize personal mobility through quiet, fast, and clean air transportation. Joby publicly unveiled its five-seater aircraft in early 2020 and intends to begin operating the aircraft as a commercial passenger aircraft in 2024.
To study the flow of air over the aircraft, Joby engineers conduct Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations. Joby has focused on using CFD more than traditional aircraft manufacturers might have because it allowed for rapid design iteration as the team explored various aircraft designs and architectures.
Using CFD provided engineers with a great deal of insight into the expected performance of the aircraft. Due to the novel nature of the design, the team would not have much useful data from past aircraft programs on which to base predictions, so the preemptive knowledge the team gleans from these CFD simulations is very valuable. “No one has designed an aircraft like this before. We are breaking new ground,” says Alex Stoll, aeromechanics lead at Joby. “The aerodynamics are complex and we’ve therefore relied heavily on CFD to understand the various interactions across the airframe.”
The Joby aircraft has six propellers and can take off in several different ways, each varying in energy efficiency, speed, and noise level. “For example, maybe we can make some adjustments to how the pilots fly the aircraft, helping to reduce our noise footprint, which is essential to delivering community acceptance,” says Jeremy Bain, CFD lead at Joby. “CFD is the best way for us to analyze all the options at once and get a clear understanding of what’s happening.”
Joby engineers rely on high performance computing (HPC) to conduct thousands of complex, compute-intensive CFD simulations that use hundreds of CPU cores each and can take many hours to complete. The company originally ran Simcenter STAR-CCM+ CFD software on an on-premises compute cluster. But when Stoll met another engineer who was running CFD on Amazon Web Services (AWS), he realized that leveraging the cloud could improve efficiency, reduce costs, and boost the engineers’ productivity by decreasing job turnaround time. “Using AWS helps us get results from our CFD work faster. In some cases, we get results in 24 hours that may have previously taken a week. To run the same analyses at the same scale and with the same turnaround time using on-premises resources, we’d have to have a huge compute cluster running at low utilization, which would be much more expensive to purchase as well as maintain.”
To learn more about how Joby Aviation is designing their electric aircrafts on AWS, read the full case study here.