Alauda Marks eVTOL Racing Milestones
Alauda Aeronautics, the company behind the Airspeeder electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) racing aircraft, announced on Dec. 1 that it has achieved a new milestone in the development of eVTOL racing. In a first, Alauda said that it conducted a test flight with three uncrewed eVTOL racing aircraft, a step change from prior test flights that involved a maximum of two aircraft. The flight occurred in South Australia in September.
Alauda and Airspeeder, two Australian companies founded by entrepreneur Matthew Pearson, are seeking to produce the eVTOL equivalent of Formula One racing. Alauda is developing aircraft for the eVTOL races, the Alauda Airspeeder Mk.4, while Airspeeder is managing the eVTOL races themselves.
In Airspeeder’s EXA series of races, the remote pilots are flying uncrewed versions of the Alauda Airspeeder Mk.4. The Mk.4 is Airspeeder’s final design for the production aircraft that will eventually be used in crewed, piloted races. The aircraft are capable of speeds up to 108 kt (200 km/h) and have a gross takeoff weight of 550 lb (250 kg). More information on each of the Alauda Airspeeders is available at the World eVTOL Aircraft Directory at www.eVTOL.news.
The three-speeder test was not a race but proved the ability of the communications and control for simultaneous flights of three Airspeeders. For the communications and race control system, Alauda and Airspeeder are working with a third partner in the program, Telstra Purple, as well as with software providers Acronis and Amazon Web Services.
EXA Series Launch
With Alauda progressing on the technical development of the eVTOL racing concept, Airspeeder is making strides in turning its vision for competitive eVTOL races into a reality.
Airspeeder launched the EXA series to validate the eVTOL racing concept and gather data for future competitions. Airspeeder selected the first group of pilots to compete in EXA in January 2022, each of whom drew on backgrounds in drone and car racing. Drone pilot Lexie Janson joined the piloting team in April and began training.
The first race of the EXA series in May involved two remote pilots flying the Airspeeder Mk.4 in a head-to-head competition. Airspeeder remote pilot Zephatali Walsh won that race, completing the 0.6-mile (1-km) track before opponent Fabio Tischler.
In August, Airspeeder announced that it had completed 250 test flights of its various Airspeeder models since 2016. In a second two-Airspeeder race held in October, Walsh again won, beating Janson after she surpassed Tischler’s speed in the qualifier.
The September flight demonstrated the possibility of flying multiple aircraft in close proximity, an essential requirement of future eVTOL Grand Prix races that will feature multiple aircraft. It further showed how data from three vehicles could be transmitted on the same communications network to ground crews, enabling personnel to monitor the vehicles in real time. According to Alauda, the flight provided data that will help researchers better understand future advanced air mobility (AAM) operations.
In addition to improving safety, Airspeeder’s digital architecture is foundational to the emerging concept for the eVTOL racing competitions. Rather than build a complete physical track, Airspeeder and Alauda intend to digitally add elements such as barriers that will be transmitted to the pilots and spectators and viewed using augmented reality.
At the same time that it is constructing its digital infrastructure, Airspeeder and Alauda are aiming to start working on building out their physical presence. In March 2022, Alauda announced that it has received a A$20M ($13.4M) Australian government grant to build a factory for assembling the Airspeeders at the Australian Space Park in South Australia.
Airspeeder intends to launch crewed eVTOL races in 2024. In the meantime, the EXA series of remotely piloted eVTOL races is expected to continue, yielding insights valuable for the development of the racing concept.