The Duke of Richmond formally opened the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed last week and launched Airspeeder – billed as “the thrilling airborne motorsport for a new generation of race fans” – by dropping the flag on the world’s first full-size quadcopter racing event.
Featuring two Mk II prototype Speeders racing head-to-head at speeds of up to 100km/h and an average of four metres above the ground, the global launch gave the assembled media and VIPs a flavour of the edge-of-the-seat action spectators can expect when the first manned Airspeeder World Championship – featuring five teams and ten pilots – gets underway in 2020.
The unveil was also an opportunity to formally introduce Alauda Racing – the Australian start-up behind Airspeeder – and the series’ global title sponsor Equals (a money management solutions provider formerly known as FairFX). With the backing of Equals, and Official Logistics Partner DHL, Alauda Racing will use Airspeeder as a platform to develop ‘highly-efficient and highly-effective ‘flying cars’ for commercial use’.
Matt Pearson, founder and CEO of Airspeeder and the driving force behind the Airspeeder race series, said: “This was a very emotional moment for those of us who have been involved in this project from the start, everyone at Alauda Racing and our partners and sponsors. After huge amounts of hard work, research, technical development and planning this formal unveiling – at an event as iconic as Goodwood – it feels as though all our dreams have become reality and Airspeeder has properly arrived.”
Airspeeder combines the ethos of Formula E (that’s the motorsport series using only electric cars), the drama of air racing and the glamour of F1, and visitors to this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed were treated to exciting aerial racing displays in the skies over West Sussex throughout the weekend.
On terra firma, a static display of the Airspeeder Mk IV, the world’s first manned octocopter, took centre stage amid the immersive technology of Future Lab – one of the leading attractions of the 2019 event.
The Airspeeder race series will begin in 2020 and the organisers say it “will instantly appeal to fans of traditional motorsport, while tapping into the rich heritage of air racing – which has existed for almost as long as conventional motorsport”.
However, Airspeeder’s technology-focused approach will allow the racing to plug into the emerging and rapidly growing world of drone competition, as well as eSports, to carve out a new and potentially huge audience for a thrilling aerial motorsport.
The series will tour the world with grands prix held at iconic motorsport venues, intended to reflect the drama of the airborne action, with the series broadcast live to a global audience. Initially, each grand prix will feature head-to-head racing between ten pilots competing for five teams.
Races will take place under rules similar to Formula E, so each race is likely to involve around 30 minutes of flat-out action and include one pit-stop for a battery swap. The Mk IV octocopters, or Speeders, that will eventually compete in the first Airspeeder Grand Prix, will begin manned demonstration flights in the Mojave Desert later this year. Each will hit speeds of up to 200km/h and offer a power-to-weight ratio superior to a fighter jet.
The Airspeeder concept has taken just four years to get off the ground as Alauda seeks to make the jump from technology driven start-up to worldwide motorsport brand. With a team consisting of aerospace engineers, designers, pilots and entrepreneurs, their vision is to ‘change the direction of motorsport’.
Utilising high-strength and specifically engineered materials, including carbon fibre and alloys, the Speeders are unique and designed from the ground up for performance racing. Initially Alauda Racing will be the sole manufacturer, offering a rigorously-tested chassis and body, robust battery technology and motors and standardised software.
Each Mk IV Speeder will be four metres long and will weigh roughly 250kg. They are propelled by eight 50kw motors driving 60-inch blades, with power provided by swappable 500kw battery packs which can provide full thrust for around 15 minutes.
Each speeder will be packed with technology, including state-of-the-art collision avoidance systems and software to manage power delivery and battery efficiency. As a new approach was needed to ensure fast but safe flight, a built-in augmented reality vision system allows the pilot to ‘see through’ the craft’s body. This will provide maximum visibility when manoeuvring and overtaking Speeders which are out-of-sight underneath the level of the cockpit.
Summing up Airspeeder’s debut at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Matt Pearson, founder and CEO, said: “This is just the start of our reach for the skies. Our vision sees not just the development of a unique sporting spectacle but also the start of a new industry, with flying cars built for competition providing an ideal environment for innovation and technical evolution. Just watch this space.”