A revolutionary development came to light on Thursday with the Airspeeder, a full-scale electric flying racing vehicle that is remotely piloted and known as the Alauda Mk3, took to the skies for the first time.
IWC Schaffhausen has joined forces with Airspeeder in a new engineering and timekeeping partnership aimed at “pioneering this new form of motorsport to fast-track a new era of clean-air mobility.”
The Airspeeder racing series is the brainchild of founder Matt Pearson, who also runs Alauda, the world’s first performance electric flying car manufacturer. Taking inspiration from the role sport has traditionally played in advancing the cause of technology, Pearson’s visionary idea is to create a new kind of motorsport to accelerate the advanced air mobility revolution and transform passenger, logistical and even medical transportation.
The planned global race series will eventually see a full grid of eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) craft, manufactured by Alauda, managed by individual teams and operated by elite pilots, compete at heights of up to 40m off the ground and at top speeds of 200km/h. The air races will take place on electronically-created tracks and be streamed globally, minimizing the environmental impact of more complex logistics and infrastructure.
The first flights took place at various test locations in the desert of South Australia over the watchful eyes of Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
The Alauda Airspeeder Mk3 was inspired by a number of racing cars from the 1950s and ’60s. Felix Pierron, head of design for Airspeeder, pushed the limits of the creation, combining the dynamics of a Formula 1 car with a similar profile to that of a fighter jet, along with the function of a helicopter. As far as performance goes, it has a maximum power of 320kW, which is the same as an Audi SQ7 performance SUV. However, the craft weighs only 130kg without a pilot compared to the 2,500kg of the Audi. The Airspeeder can also lift up to 80kg, and also accelerate 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds, as well as climb to 500 meters.
Per the release, “A Speeder can turn with extraordinary speed when compared to a traditional fixed wing aircraft or helicopter. The Mk3 vehicle has a thrust-to-weight ratio of 3.5, which exceeds that of an F-15E Strike Eagle (thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.2), one of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world.
“The rapid hairpin turning potential achieved through an octocopter format has been compared to that of a Formula 1 car, generating up to 5Gs, with the added capability to manoeuvre vertically.
“The engineering team has developed an advanced carbon fiber structure, carrying strength and weight-saving benefits. Indeed, there is an obsession at Alauda with shedding grams to gain critical seconds in performance. A Mk3 consists of a carbon fiber chassis and advanced integrally stiffened skin which allows for the complex shapes of the fuselage while providing structural integrity of the vehicle under extreme racing conditions and maneuvers.”
“The vehicle batteries have been re-designed resulting in 90 percent more capacity with only a 50 percent increase in weight over the earlier Airspeeder concept vehicle. The design of the battery modules also provides for an exciting strategic layer to the Airspeeder racing events.
“Power delivery profiles can be changed by ground crews to respond to the different requirements of the electronically governed sky-tracks that Airspeeder pilots will follow. For example, a layout that demands rapid maneuvers through sharp turns and ascents will require a different power delivery curve from those that demand outright straight-line speed. Ground crews will have to make instant decisions around sacrificing raw power for outright range.”
The Airspeeder was created under a systems-based safety formula, which is a method carried over from military, civilian and performance aviation. In short, controlled flight will not be lost due to a single operational failure. Ground crews will be able to also identify issues via state-of-the-art telemetry. There are also collision avoidance systems to “create a virtual forcefield around the craft to ensure close but ultimately safe racing.”
The Airspeeder will be featured in a new racing series called EXA. The competition will hold up to four teams with two remote pilots per team, which will face off “blade-to-blade” in three individual events at locations around the world for 2021. Events will take place in areas that are not accessible for traditional motorsport.
“EXA races will see elite pilots drawn from aviation, motorsport and eSports backgrounds to remotely pilot the world’s only racing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft,” stated the release. “These pilots will remotely control their Speeders in races across electronically governed , Augmented Reality enabled sky-tracks. Audiences will watch via digital streams that show the full dynamic potential of vehicles that have greater thrust-to-weight ratio than a F-15 fighter jet.
“These races will rapidly hasten the arrival of eVTOL advanced air mobility craft. This technology, predicted by Morgan Stanley to be worth $1.5 trillion by 2040 is already finding potent applications in air logistics and remote medical care and has the potential to liberate cities from congestion though clean-air passenger applications like air taxis.”
The first-of-its-kind series puts Alauda Aeronautics at the forefront of the generation’s “defining mobility revolution.” This platform allows the company an opportunity for rapid growth to develop the fundamentals for growing eVTOL transportation.
Plans call for a format similar to a drag race between two “works teams” which will be from Alauda. There will also be a final test where a shakedown will be conducted for strategic and technical aspects. Following the results of that, external teams will be allowed to take part in the new sport.
Series pilots will fly their craft from a simulator, which will provide feedback like a cockpit environment. Pilots will have the ability to set courses by electronic sky-tracks. Every Mk3 run by each team will be under identical specifications, putting the emphasis of winning on skill and overall strategy.
Additional “physical tele-robotic avatars named ‘The Aviators’ sit within the cockpit environment of the Mk3,” the series announcement states. “They have been designed to represent the frame of human pilots. This will provide engineers with critical data and information on the effects of high-speed racing, rapid turning, acceleration and deceleration on the human frame. This will accelerate Airspeeder’s progression to human-piloted races which are scheduled in 2022.
“EXA will remain the proving ground for the Airspeeder crewed racing series, providing a vital technical test-bed for teams and the perfect space to develop pilot skills. This means Airspeeder is able to draw its pilots and crew from a wide range of backgrounds including eSports as they can undertake the necessary training on the dynamics of an electric flying race car in a remote environment. In legacy motorsport terms, EXA will take its place as the feeder series for crewed Airspeeder races in the forthcoming Alauda Mk4.”
There will also be grounded pit stops in every Airspeeder race, where batteries will be removed and replaced courtesy of a “slide and lock” system developed by the engineers at Alauda.
“Intense internal competition between in-house pit crews has driven the pit stop time down to just 20 seconds, which is entirely comparable with any form of ground-based legacy motorsport. This is expected to continue to fall. For context, a Formula 1 pit stop used to take more than a minute.”
The sport’s technical headquarters is located in Adelaide, Australia. However, the company’s administrative, commercial and communication departments, which are headed by COO Jack Whithinshaw, are based in London, as part of a strategy to be in “direct proximity to leaders in motorsport, rights management and regulation.”