No, it’s an Airspeeder – a flying electric car that will be remotely piloted in competition later this year. Think of a giant drone capable of 63mph and hailed as the world’s first, fully functioning electric flying racing car. If that’s not bonkers enough, a manned racing series will begin in 2022.
The complete series of races will be announced in the spring as the Airspeeder team hope to create a completely new form of racing from its commercial headquarters based in London.
It is the brainchild of technology entrepreneur Matt Pearson, who was searching for a new challenge after his internet business made him a multi-millionaire. A science fiction fan inspired by Elon Musk’s Tesla, he set his sights on designing an electric flying car.
Now his Airspeeder racing series is being touted as the future of motorsport. The F1 of the skies will eventually see manned, open cockpit ‘multicopters’ competing in a Star Wars-style aerial dual. Pearson hopes it will one day inspire the possibility of domestic flying cars.
An Airspeeder features a set of rotor blades at each corner and has the ability to take off and land vertically, just like a helicopter. Roughly the size of a bobsleigh, the batteries last about ten minutes and pilots will need to swap machines at regular pit stops during races.
Dangerous? Not a bit as the company behind the idea, Alauda Aeronautics, has developed collision avoidance technology, similar to systems already starting to appear in semi-autonomous cars we already drive on the road.
Last year, the company announced it had teamed up with Acronis to launch the series. The cyber protection specialists are already a major supporter of Formula 1, as well as the electric car spin-off competition Formula E.
Part of the deal will include the use of machine vision technology and LiDAR – a system that measures distances using laser lights – to create a virtual ‘force field’ around the Airspeeders and ensure they don’t crash into each other.
Covid has slowed down development of the racing series, now hoped to start in 2021, but two events are already confirmed – one in the remote Australian outback town of Coober Pedy and the other in California’s Mojave Dessert.
“It’s a very exciting prospect. We are already in discussions with other locations around the world and the interest in the series has been amazing,” Pearson told Classics & Supercars.
“I think we have seen the idea of flying cars filter into our lives with drones but there are obviously some major barriers to overcome first.”
The idea of controlling air space infested with personal flying machines has already proved a problem monitoring drones. But with Uber making a flying car and Google guru Larry Page testing autonomous taxis, anything is possible.
Pearson says a comprehensive, automated air traffic control system would still need to be in place before the time comes for thousands of us to take off from our driveway nd commute to the office.
Until then, Airspeeder is still looking for more experienced pilots to compete in the racing series. Aspiring Luke Skywalkers should visit airspeeder.com