Racing cars

Airspeeder wants to make electric flying racing cars a reality in 2021 – TechCrunch

While much of the eVTOL industry is aimed at city air taxis or freight transportation, entrepreneur Matthew Pearson came up with another idea: electric flying racing cars. Thus, in 2019, he founded two companies, Alauda Aeronautics to manufacture the aircraft and Airspeeder, an international series to fly them. Today, Airspeeder says it has completed the first test flights of the world’s first electric flying racing car and is set to host the inaugural race of its EXA series this year.

This flying racing car, the electric Alauda Mk3, carried out its test flights in South Australia. They were observed by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which certified the aircraft. Pearson’s vision – and what you can see by watching some of Airspeeder’s cinematic trailers – is a race somewhat reminiscent of iconic Star Wars podracing, with no humans or creatures in the pilot’s seat.

The first three races, due in 2021, will all feature remotely piloted planes. The company is planning a showcase with crew from 2022.

The unmanned Mk3, which can reach top speeds of 124 miles per hour (200 km / h), weighs just 286 pounds (130 kg). It can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds, the company said, comparing it to the Tesla Model S or the Porsche Taycan. Similar to Formula 1 and NASCAR, the Mk3 has a removable battery for quick replacement during pit stops. The internal refueling teams were able to replace the battery, designed by Alauda, ​​in just under 20 seconds. The Mk3 is capable of flying 10 to 15 minutes on a single battery, so during a 45-minute run, ground pilots will remotely direct the aircraft to land for a pit stop about three times.

Mk3 is equipped with a combination of lidar, radar, and machine vision that Pearson says creates a collision avoidance system. The company did not tell TechCrunch how many sensors are present on each ship and declined to provide more details on the system, citing proprietary information. The challenge in designing a safety system for a flying racing car, however, is to allow enough flexibility so that planes can get as close as possible, without actually colliding. This is a problem for the pilots who will be competing against each other, but also for the Airspeeder system.

Pearson put it this way: “The vehicles talk to each other, they know where the others are, and they all solve the collision avoidance problem the same way using the same algorithm. So they know they can predict each other’s behavior. It’s the kind of framework to avoid collisions, but inside of that we want to give the riders as much freedom and control as possible. So figuring out where the barrier between the rider and the machine is is going to be a really interesting thing. “

Image credits: Aerospeeder (Opens in a new window)

While it’s tempting to draw comparisons with the major eVTOL companies that develop air taxi services, Pearson said the economics and the path to commercialization of electric flying racing cars are different. “The model of marketing is much faster,” he said. “We can run before anyone can participate in business operations. “

One of the reasons they can be so agile is that their certification journey is very different from that required by air taxis designed to transport people. These startups can spend several hundred million dollars – up to $ 1 billion, by some estimates – on the design, certification and manufacture of a single aircraft model. The Mk3 flies under experimental certification with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which means that while it must meet certain safety and airworthiness standards, the regulatory burden is far less than that of a passenger plane.

“The important thing in our program is to keep the vehicles in constant development cycles. So instead of trying to build a vehicle and then certify it over 10 years, we try to build new planes every year, ”he explained. “This is not how aviation works normally. And certainly, if you want to get into passenger apps, that’s not how you do it.

Airspeeder had its first funding round in April 2020 for an unspecified amount, led by Australian investors Saltwater Capital and Jelix Ventures. Pearson said he would provide capital as well, and they were successful in attracting partnerships from logistics company BHL and luxury watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen. The company declined to provide further details on how it handled funding for a small-scale aircraft manufacturing operation from scratch.

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