Volkswagen Group China has unveiled its first electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) passenger drone prototype as part of the Vertical Mobility project it launched in 2020.
After intensive research, conceptual work and development, the project team finally has something to show for in the form of the first validation model, the V.Mo. This initial prototype has also been nicknamed the "Flying Tiger" due to its distinctive black and gold livery that commemorates its launch in the Year of the Tiger.
Unveiled at Volkswagen Group China's headquarters in Beijing, the drone has eight rotors for vertical lift and two propellers for horizontal flight. It has an X-shaped wing with a span of 10.6 meters (34.7 feet) and it uses existing autonomous driving solutions and battery technology for emission-free mobility.
Volkswagen says it will conduct several flight tests later this year to optimize the concept before producing an improved prototype that will undergo further advanced test flights by late summer 2023. In its final iteration, the all-electric and automated eVTOL could eventually carry four passengers plus luggage over a distance of 200 kilometers (124 miles).
Gallery: V.MO air taxi prototype developed by Volkswagen Group China
In the first phase of commercial use, the drone will likely be marketed "as a premium product for high-net worth, tech savvy Chinese customers, for example for VIP air shuttle services," Volkswagen says.
“This is a pioneering project which our young team of Chinese experts started from scratch – they are working with new design concepts and materials while developing new safety standards, disrupting and innovating every step of the way. The launch of this stunning validation model – the V.MO – is the first of many remarkable milestones on our exciting journey towards urban air travel, and a perfect example of our ‘From China, For China’ mission. Our long-term aim is to industrialize this concept and, like a ‘Flying Tiger’, break new ground in this emerging and fast-evolving new mobility market.”
Dr. Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China
Volkswagen Group China's partners on this project include Hunan Sunward Technology, a subsidiary of Sunward, a market leader in the light sport aircraft industry.
The automaker says that eVTOL air vehicles will be able to transport passengers more quickly and efficiently than current conventional means of terrestrial transport and with greater flexibility as urban air mobility is set to play a significant role in the future of urban and intercity transportation in China's congested megacities.
As its Vertical Mobility project develops, Volkswagen Group China says it will work with the relevant Chinese authorities to achieve certification.