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Where They’re Racing, There Are No Roads

1 Jul, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Flying Cars (Yes, Really) Set to Debut Later This Year, with Manned Race Series Coming in 2022

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a … flying car? Oh, wait. Make that: multiple flying cars, all part of a new race series set to debut later this year and (it goes without saying) to make international headlines in the process.

The concept has moved from the cartoon lives of the Jetsons to the skies of today, thanks to Alauda Aeronautics, the company that manufactures the aircraft, and Airspeeder, an international series to race them, both the brainchild of founder and CEO Matt Pearson.

Now, Airspeeder says it has completed the first test flights of the electric flying race car and is poised to host the inaugural race of its EXA series. The first three races, which are set to take place in 2021, will all feature remotely piloted aircraft. The company is planning for a crewed showcase as early as 2022.

“That flying race car, the electric Alauda Mk3, had its test flights in south Australia,” notes TechCrunch. “They were observed by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority, who 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 Star Wars’ iconic podracing, without a human or creature in the pilot seat.”

“Think of it as Formula 1 of the skies,” noted Front Office Sports.

The races are expected to take place on electronically created tracks at heights of up to 131 feet and speeds of 124 miles per hour. 

“This is a sport born in the streaming era, and beauty is a requirement in everything we do,” said Pearson.

The Airspeeder models are classified as electrified, autonomous vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (VTOLs). The vehicles themselves look a bit like a cross between a drone, a small jet and a Formula 1 race car. And according to Morgan Stanley, which was quoted by FOS, the flying car market could reach $1.5 trillion by 2040; the market will include not just race vehicles but personal transport, delivery and defense uses.

Airspeeder announced a partnership with watchmaker IWC a short time ago, and also partners with shipping company DHL — which has sponsored drone racing competitions — and technology company Acronis.

Pearson hopes to use the competition to promote the acceptance and technological underpinnings of the flying car industry.

“Flying cars are an essential part of the future we have been promised for so long,” he said.

In fact, the concept of “It’s the year 2000; where are the flying cars?” was cleverly (and successfully) used in an IBM commercial, in which Avery Brooks laments the lack of said vehicles – and then notes they are no longer needed because the Internet has made it possible for people around the world to communicate without traveling to see one another – although, the commercial points out, better software will always be necessary.

The concept of the flying car has surfaced throughout history; this article from Popular Mechanics has an interesting timeline.

But now, finally, it looks like it’s coming to fruition (and to the sports industry), provided Pearson’s concept is accepted as a safe option. According to Wikipedia, “in July of 2019, during a demonstration unmanned flight, the pilot lost control of Mk 2 scale demonstrator. The safety system was triggered but had no effect and the aircraft climbed 8,000 feet into controlled airspace (holding point for flights into London Gatwick Airport) before its battery ran out and it crashed.”

While nobody in the area was injured, reports did note the incident created an enormous risk to local residents, airliners in the area and invited guests, and a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch came up with 15 safety recommendations regarding the operator’s procedures, airworthiness standards and the regulatory oversight.

Worth noting: Air sports is already a discipline covered by the World Air Sports Federation, which is on the list of international sports federations recognized by the IOC. (No telling, though, whether Airspeeder racing would become a discipline).

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