Motor vehicle manufacturer Volkswagen Group China has unveiled its first electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger drone prototype, its first validation model (VMO).
The prototype has also been nicknamed the ‘Flying Tiger’ due to its distinctive black and gold livery, painted to commemorate its launch in the ‘Year of the Tiger’. In 2020, Volkswagen Group China launched a vertical mobility project to explore the next generation of mobility solutions, including the urban air mobility market and the extension of urban traffic into airspace.
Volkswagen China is exploring and hoping to break new ground in fully electric and sustainable individual mobility concepts.
The prototype concept is based on existing autonomous driving solutions and battery technology for emission-free mobility. With a top mounted x-wing configuration of 11.2m in length and a span width of 10.6m, the prototype model features eight rotors for vertical lift and two propellers for horizontal flight.
Volkswagen China is continuing to conduct several flight tests to optimise the concept.
An improved prototype will undergo further advanced test flights by late summer 2023. In its final future iteration, the fully electric and automated eVTOL could eventually carry four passengers plus luggage over a distance of up to 200km.
Volkswagen formed a team of young, local experts to drive ‘The Vertical Mobility’ project forward. The highly experienced and focused team is rapidly expanding its R&D and software expertise to significantly accelerate the pace of innovation. Volkswagen says they require innovative thinking in this new whole new field.
The team have been supported by Chinese partners including Hunan Sunward Technology, a subsidiary of Hunan-based manufacturing group Sunward. This company specialises in aviation product development, sales and services and is a market leader in the light sport aircraft (LSA) industry.
“Through this pilot project, we are bringing Volkswagen’s long tradition of precision engineering, design, and innovation to the next level, by developing a premium product that will serve the vertical mobility needs of our future tech savvy Chinese customers,” said Dr. Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China.
“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.”
Urban air mobility is a fast-emerging market which aims to utilize air space for short- and medium-distance connections, especially above and between large cities. In China, it is set to play a significant role in the future of urban and intercity transportation in its congested megacities. In the first phase of its commercial use, V.MO is likely to be pitched as a premium product for high-net worth tech savvy Chinese customers.
VIP air shuttle services using eVTOL air vehicles like the V.MO will be able to transport passengers more quickly and efficiently than current conventional means of transport and with greater flexibility.
As the Vertical Mobility project develops, Volkswagen Group China will work with the relevant Chinese authorities to achieve certification.