When Marty McFly arrived in 2015 in ‘Back to the Future: Part II’, hoverboards, self-lacing shoes and flying cars were the norm.
While the predictions made in the film might have been very optimistic — self-lacing shoes might be a way off — the introduction of flying cars might be closer than you think.
This comes after the launch of the ‘Airspeeder Mark I,’ a low altitude quadcopter aircraft from Australian start-up Alauda Racing.
Conceived and designed over two years by tech and space entrepreneur Matt Pearson, the electric powered Airspeeder will participate in a competitive racing league.
“We’ve merged an F1 car with a racing drone and turned it into something completely new,” Pearson explained.
“It’s easier to build a hovering, flying car. What we wanted to do is race and when you want to race, you need an enormous amount of power very, very fast.
“This is a manned, electric multi-copter with a greater power-to-weight ratio than a F1 car or a fighter jet.”
Powered by lithium ion batteries, the Airspeeder will reach speeds of over 200kmph.
And most of the drone is custom made. The wooden propellers, the removable 50-megawatt electric motors (equivalent to 80 wall sockets), and the aluminum frame are all designed by Alauda.
The vehicles will also have sensors to prevent collisions and airbags to protect pilots.
Although testing has been with unmanned crafts, the drones will have pilots when the racing begins in earnest and will be completely controlled from within the vehicle.
Pearson, co-founder of space start-up Fleet, believes designing vehicles to race in the air is actually easier than the more traditional four-wheeled options.
“The air is actually quite a simple medium to work with so in a lot of ways, we can build a safer sport than has been possible in motorsport over the last century.
“There are things you can do in the air that hasn’t been possible in motorsport. There are amazing things in robotics and autonomy that go into our flight control systems that make things safe.”
Whilst the final structure of the racing league is unknown — the new racing series is scheduled to start in 2020/21 — the rough plans being drawn up already.
The league has chosen a circuit race format — like Formula One — rather than a time trial format that will be taken to some of the worlds most exotic locations round the globe in the ‘first flying car Grand Prix.’
Ahead of that, the Airspeeder will feature at Goodwood Festival at the FoS Future Lab, which aims to “showcase some of the most exciting and forward-thinking visions of future technology.”
And although you may think it would be easier to have unmanned drone racing, the attraction of having piloted drones is something Pearson believes will attract motorsport fans.
“This is five teams, ten pilots, ten vehicles in a circuit race, head-to-head,” he said.
“I think this is going to be the most watchable sport in the world.”