Car manufacturer Volkswagen is thinking of producing not only driving but also flying passenger vehicles in the future. This is evident from the unveiling of a prototype eVTOL called Flying Tiger. The four-person drone taxi was developed by the Vertical Mobility division of Volkswagen Group China, a business unit dedicated to innovative transport concepts.
Volkswagen Flying Tiger drone taxi
Small-scale passenger transport is still mainly ground-based. But the third dimension may also play a major role in the future. Under the heading of Urban Air Mobility (UAM), experiments are underway worldwide with electrically powered aircraft that can take off and land vertically, the so-called eVTOLs. These should enable low-cost short- and medium-haul flights in and around urban areas.
Volkswagen also wants to experiment with UAM. This led to the creation of the Vertical Mobility division, which recently unveiled the prototype of an electric drone taxi. The Flying Tiger EVTOL – so named because of the black and gold striping on the fuselage – will be tested for the first time later this year. More extensive test flights are planned for 2023.
Drone taxi carries four passengers over 125 miles
On paper, VW's eVTOL can carry four passengers plus luggage over a distance of 125 miles. The aircraft has ten propellers for propulsion: eight for vertical take-off and two for flying forward. The Flying Tiger intends to perform the flights fully automatically, although that will only be on the timeline for a later moment.
With the Flying Tiger, Volkswagen aims at a wealthy and tech-savvy audience. For that reason, VW is initially considering offering VIP air shuttle services in Chinese cities. At a later stage, flights with the drone taxi should also be within reach of a wider audience, for example, on the basis of a flight sharing model.
“With this pilot project, we are taking Volkswagen's long tradition of precision engineering, design and innovation to the next level by developing a first-class product that will meet the vertical mobility needs of our future tech-savvy Chinese customers,” said Volkswagen Group China CEO Stephan Wöller . “This is a groundbreaking project that our young team of Chinese experts started from scratch – working with new design concepts and materials while developing new safety standards, renewing and innovating every step of the way.”
Other car manufacturers
Incidentally, Volkswagen is not the only car maker that is experimenting with Urban Air Mobiliy. Honda, Daimler, Toyota and Hyundai have also announced drone taxis. In addition, there are plenty of new players targeting UAM, such as Volocopter, Lilium, and EHang.
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