A bold Australian startup is developing retro-styled, manned flying vehicles designed with one objective in mind: aerial competition.
An unusual event occurred in Sydney this week. A secretive R&D project was revealed, introducing a vehicle that upon first inspection appears to be completely, utterly insane.
The Alauda Mark 1 is an electric, low-altitude aircraft that looks like a 1950s-era Formula One car crossed with a quadcopter drone — but large enough to carry a human pilot. Once completed, Alauda claim that it will be capable of carrying a human, and propelling them to reach top speeds of over 200 kilometres per hour.
Alauda Aeronautics have today announced themselves, their Airspeeder Mark 1 prototype and their bold intentions for a head-to-head race of these vehicles in 2018.
The project is steered by Alauda founder Matt Pearson, who is also co-founder and COO of Adelaide-based space and IoT startup Fleet. The Alauda Airspeeder project represents two years of covert development in a Sydney warehouse, and the team is now seeking popular support via a Kickstarter campaign, aiming to attract sponsorship.
The Mark 1 is equipped with four custom 50-kilowatt motors, and powered by the same cells used in the battery of a Tesla Model S, and Alauda has lifted the term ‘Airspeeder’ from science fiction to describe this new category of vehicle.
Brazen first impressions aside, the strength of the Alauda Airspeeder concept deepens with more data. The Airspeeder will employ safety systems leveraging robotics and a range of sensors. Many Aeronautics firms worldwide are developing similar ‘flying car’ concepts, including Airbus and Uber. Alauda is creating a deliberately exciting vehicle and event — they want to harness competition to drive development. Founder and CEO Matt Pearson wants to propel the project skyward by drumming up support with pure adrenaline.
“Racing will push the technology like nothing else. It’s not enough to build the speeder: we have to build the sport. We want to bring the excitement and values of Formula 1 to the sky,” he said.
“After two years of development, we’re ready to share the Alauda Mark 1 with the world. Like any sport, we need a community of passionate people backing us. We have the prototype, we have the technology, we have the team – now we want to take it to the next level. Our Kickstarter will help us build a community and bring flying racing cars one step closer to reality.”
Alauda is one of the founding companies of the South Australian Space Innovation Complex and is currently in discussions with industry bodies for regulatory approval. Their targets are ambitious — claiming that the first test flight will happen early next year, and aiming to hold the first head-to-head race planned for late 2018. By 2020, the company plans to hold the first Airspeeder World Championship.
I, for one, wholly support this confident, adrenaline-addled endeavour. If you feel similarly, check out the Alaura Airspeeder Kickstarter campaign.