Aircraft

Airspeeder series to debut 120-mph, head-to-head, manned multicopter racing in 2020

Airspeeder series to debut 120...
Airspeeder plans to kick off manned multicopter racing in 2020, including head-to-head racing
Airspeeder plans to kick off manned multicopter racing in 2020, including head-to-head racing
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With manned trials set to begin this year, the Airspeeder team is charging hard towards flying car racing
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With manned trials set to begin this year, the Airspeeder team is charging hard towards flying car racing
Airspeeder plans to kick off manned multicopter racing in 2020, including head-to-head racing
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Airspeeder plans to kick off manned multicopter racing in 2020, including head-to-head racing

A grid full of 10 giant coaxial octocopters, each with a pilot on board, racing each other head-to-head through the air at speeds up to 200 km/h (120 mph)? That's exactly what the Airspeeder racing series is set to introduce in 2020 with the aim of being a kind of Formula One for flying cars.

Alauda is a young Australian company with huge ambitions. Operating out of Sydney, the team has built a number of massive octacopter prototypes, and has been documenting the builds and flight testing in the heat of the Aussie outback over the last eight months or so in a series of extremely raw and very entertaining YouTube videos.

Having successfully flown prototypes under a range of different unmanned conditions, the team is making its international public debut with demonstration flights at the upcoming Goodwood Festival of Speed and the announcement that it's planning to start manned flights this year, and an honest-to-god race series in 2020.

The final race vehicles will be a touch over 4 m (13 ft) in length and nearly 3.5 m (11.5 ft) wide, and be covered in lightweight aerodynamic bodywork reminiscent of old-school F1 cars from the 50s and 60s. They will carry humungous LiPo batteries capable of 500-kilowatt power discharge rates, and weigh somewhere around 230 kg (~500 lb) without the pilot on board. Quadcopter and coaxial octocopter versions will be available.

With manned trials set to begin this year, the Airspeeder team is charging hard towards flying car racing
With manned trials set to begin this year, the Airspeeder team is charging hard towards flying car racing

The team says it'll begin "manned demonstrations" of the Mk IV Airspeeder in California's Mojave Desert this November. The Airspeeder race series, slated to kick off within 18 months, will feature individual time trials, as well as "heart-pounding white-knuckle head-to-head races 20 meters (65 ft) above ground." Alauda hopes the race series will fast-track development of consumer-grade manned multicopter technology, and lead to "a world-beating flying sports car for sale to the public."

Our first reaction is: awesome, bring it on! Our second reaction is: are these guys crazy? A number of manned multicopter projects around the world have already made their first wobbly flights, and while some have looked reasonably stable, none have remotely made us think "they should build 10 of those and race them head to head."

We've got a ton of questions around the race format, the final Airspeeder vehicles, where the team is planning to race, regulatory issues, and of course what's being done to ensure the pilots' safety in the event of catastrophic failure at twice freeway speed and an altitude roughly equivalent to the height of a seven-story building. We've reached out to speak to the team and hope to bring you more information soon.

In the meanwhile, here's the team's first promo video.

Source: Airspeeder

This is Airspeeder

17 comments
toyhouse
All tests are still remote controlled. None carrying a human pilot. We're already well into 2019. Seems the date to race human carrying craft is rather close when testing is still only half-baked so to speak. Personally, I'd spend a bit more time, for things like safety issues and whatnot - so the sport doesn't get a bad rep just starting out,....or get regulated out of existence. It's not hard to imagine certain scenarios. Whew! All the same, I'll certainly be watching for the outcome.
Brian M
Racing - well guess there will be someone willing to give it a go, but does seem a perfect way to get yourself badly injured or killed.
Bob Stuart
Counter rotating rotors make sense if you are getting rid of a tail rotor. These just make the rotors push on air that is running away. Read your Froude equations.
Paulinator
Try tilting the rotors forward to cut down on say 90% of your drag detrimental down force. Sheesh.
Nobody
How about ducting the rotors? The open rotor design is disaster waiting to happen.
paul314
Air racing used to be a thing in the 20s and 30s, before conventional aircraft got too fast to see. Oh, and before people stopped liking sports with really high direct fatalities.
PAV
In the meantime there are safer race circuits that put the pilot in a virtual cockpit. Maybe they should do the same with this and not have the pilot in mortal danger.
Colt12
The main rule no bumping.
steveofthenw
Oh, look: More vaporware, er, a "flying car". Y'know, I used to get all mad & stuff that there were no flying cars yet. However, after all my years as a keen observer of the human condition, all I can say is thank god there are no flying cars! Given the general stupidity of the population, these things would be falling out of the sky like freakin' rain. All it'd take is one "hold my beer" moment over a concentration of some hapless folks and...
jerryd
What could possibly go wrong! ;^) These racing together just isn't going to work slicing and dicing each other up. Now say 3 ducted, tilting units maybe. And more timed against a course alone that direct bumping each other.