VW unveils first passenger drone prototype

The German automotive giant Volkswagen is one of the pioneers in the mobility sector and being one of the top brands in the automotive food chain it is always innovating. And recently the German brand’s Chinese subsidiary Volkswagen Group China showcased a prototype of an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger drone. The unveiling of this drone was a part of a goal to research and pioneer entirely electric and environmentally friendly personal mobility ideas.

VW unveils first passenger drone prototype

According to the automaker, in order to investigate the future generation of mobility solutions, including the urban air mobility market and the expansion of urban traffic into airspace, Volkswagen Group China initiated the Vertical Mobility project in 2020. Following an extensive study, conceptual work, and development, the project team has now created its first validation model, the V.MO. And owing to its striking black and gold livery, which was painted to honour its debut in the Year of the Tiger, this original prototype has also earned the moniker “Flying Tiger.”

The company revealed that the prototype concept is based on current autonomous driving systems and battery technologies for emission-free mobility. The aircraft has a luxurious x-wing design and is 11.2 metres in length by 10.6 metres in width. It has eight rotors for vertical lift and two propellers for horizontal flight. The Group will perform multiple flight tests later this year to refine the concept, and by the end of the summer of 2023, an upgraded prototype will go through more advanced test flights. The completely autonomous and electric eVTOL will eventually be able to travel up to 200 kilometres with four people and their belongings.

Commenting on the unveiling of this revolutionary mobility solution, Dr. Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China, said, “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. 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.”

He further added, “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.”

Volkswagen Group China is dramatically accelerating the speed of innovation by aggressively increasing its local R&D and software capabilities to respond to client demands more quickly. In order to advance the Vertical Mobility project, the Group assembled a group of young, local professionals. This project calls for multidisciplinary and inventive thinking in a new sector. Chinese partners, notably Hunan Sunward Technology, a division of Hunan-based manufacturing company Sunward, have helped them. The company is a global leader in the light sport aircraft sector and specialises in the development, sales, and servicing of aviation products.