Alauda unveils full-sized Airspeeder Mk3 electric flying race car
We first heard of Alauda's plans for a flying electric racing vehicle series in late 2017, when the Australian startup's Matt Pearson launched a Kickstarter to gauge interest and raise funds. The team announced its international public debut in mid-2019, and has now unveiled a full-sized, fully functioning electric flying racing car – the Airspeeder Mk3.
The Mk3 is going be raced this year and Alauda Aeronautics is currently building a number of identical racing vehicles at its technical headquarters in Adelaide, South Australia, that will be supplied to teams for the first races around electronically governed courses later this year. But they won't be manned.
They are intended to serve as a flying test bed that will gather data on vehicle dynamics, performance, safety and powertrain technology to inform the design and specs of the upcoming manned Mk4 racers, so pilots will control the unmanned flyers remotely. But the company is promising spectators plenty of thrills and excitement from the 2021 Airspeeder Mk3 racing series.
"The unveiling of the world’s first full-sized electric flying racing car is a landmark moment in the dawn of a new mobility revolution," said Pearson. "It is competition that drives progress and our racing series is hastening the arrival of technology that will transform clean-air passenger transport, logistics and even advanced air mobility for medical applications. The world’s first electric flying car races will take place this year and will be the most exciting and progressive motorsport on the planet."
The full-scale Airspeeder Mk3 is certainly a looker, rocking a 50s F1 racing car vibe and boasting a strong and stiff carbon fiber frame and fuselage that keeps things light at 100 kg (220 lb) unmanned, and lays the groundwork for the full carbon fiber monocoque body of the manned Mk4.
Its 96-kW electric powertrain is expected to see the Mk3 travel at speeds of more than 120 km/h (75 mph), with Alauda saying that the X-shaped configuration of the vehicle's eight rotors – mounted in four pairs – will enable F1-like hairpin turns while being airborne should offer even more thrills.
Current battery technology does come with range limitations, which Alauda hopes to minimize by employing a "slide and lock" battery swap system for super-quick ground-based pit stops. Of course, as with F1 racing cars, the timing of the pit stops could add another layer of excitement to the Airspeeder races, and teams will be able to mix it up with battery pack selection depending on race requirements.
"For example, for courses requiring more maneuverability but less straight line speed, a lighter battery pack can be easily selected to deliver more maneuverability at the cost of raw power or endurance," reads the presser.
And to add another dramatic visual dynamic, these birds will be able to fly in close proximity to each other thanks to the inclusion of LiDAR- and radar-based collision avoidance systems.
The Airspeeder Mk3 series race dates are yet to be announced, but more than 10 identical flying racers will be supplied to competing teams in the coming months. The video below has more.
Alauda expects the first manned Airspeeder Mk4 to be introduced at some point in 2022, and though it's still early days in the development process, current specs show a top speed of 160 km/h (100 mph) and zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration in 2.3 seconds, it's expected to fly for up to 20 minutes per battery at up to 60 m (196 ft) above the ground, and will sport eight broadcast cameras onboard, as well as 22 sensors including LiDAR, radar and an altimeter.
Source: Alauda Aeronautics