Volkswagen Group China has unveiled its first eVTOL passenger drone prototype since launching a Vertical Mobility project in 2020 to explore the urban air mobility (UAM) market and the extension of urban traffic into airspace.

The VMO prototype, nicknamed the ‘Flying Tiger’ due to its distinctive black and gold livery which was painted to commemorate its launch in the Year of the Tiger, is based on existing autonomous driving solutions and battery technology for emission-free mobility.

With an x-wing of 11.2m in length and a span width of 10.6m, it features eight rotors for vertical lift and two propellers for horizontal flight. The Group will conduct several flight tests later this year to optimise the concept and an improved prototype will undergo further advanced test flights by late summer 2023. The fully electric and automated eVTOL could eventually carry four passengers plus luggage over a distance of up to 200 km.

Volkswagen Group China CEO Dr Stephan Wöllenstein said: “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 future tech-savvy Chinese customers.

“This is a pioneering project which our young team of Chinese experts started from scratch, and 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 VMO is the first of many milestones on our exciting journey towards urban air travel, and our aim is to industrialise this concept and break new ground in this emerging and fast-evolving new mobility market.”

Volkswagen Group China is rapidly expanding local R&D and software expertise to respond faster to what customers want and significantly accelerate the pace of innovation.

The Vertical Mobility project team has been supported by Chinese partners including Hunan Sunward Technology, which specialises in aviation product development, and is a market leader in the light sport aircraft industry.

In the first phase of its commercial use, VMO is likely to be pitched as a premium product for high-net worth tech-savvy Chinese customers, for example for VIP air shuttle services, and Volkswagen Group China will work with the relevant Chinese authorities to achieve certification.

Last month, EHang entered into a strategic partnership with the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) that includes credit facilities of RMB1 billion, equivalent to around $150 million.

In September 2021, Volocopter and Aerofugia, a subsidiary of China’s innovation-driven group, Geely Technology Group, announced a joint venture company to introduce urban air mobility in China.

VW Group China V.MO eVTOL designed in collaboration with tangerine – tangerine