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ELECTRIC AVIATION





Airspeeder Mk4 flying cars will provide a safe environment from where key innovations around safety, noise and batteries can be refined and used in the wider development of an industry predicted by Morgan Stanley to be worth $1.5 trillion by 2050.


TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS A significant amount of technical innovation characterises the current vehicle with years of development activity having gone into it. Its specification is impressive, boasting sophisticated safety systems, powertrain, manoeuvrability and stability. n Safety Systems: In its current form, the craft, which will be guided by an expert remote operator from the ground, features a suite of technology and engineering elements never before seen on an eVTOL craft. These innovations will be validated in this key unmanned proving phase and include LiDAR and Radar collision avoidance systems that create a “virtual forcefield” around the craft to ensure close but ultimately safe racing. The Mk3 features a carbon fibre frame and fuselage chosen for its strength, stiffness and lightweight properties, which ensures manoeuvrability, performance and efficiency. The carbon fibre frame and fuselage adds a vital mechanical layer of safety, which will be further enhanced by a full carbon fibre monocoque body to be introduced on the Mk4 vehicle. n Powertrain: The MK3 powertrain represents a significant upgrade on the Mk2 proof-of-concept vehicle, with power increased by 95 per cent with only a 50 per cent increase in weight. A 96kW electric powertrain already sees the Mk3 operating with a thrust-to-weight ratio above two, on a craft that weighs just 100kg unmanned, resulting in speeds in excess of 120km\h. n Manoeuvrability and Stability: The Mk3 speeders are laid out in an “octocopter X formation”. This provides significant advantages to pilots in terms of manoeuvrability and stability. When racing, the pilot will be able to make the same sharp hairpin style turns as a F1 car but with the added third dimension of being able to move vertically. The octocopter configuration also adds an important measure of vehicle redundancy and will ensure the craft can safely land and remain in control should a rotor or battery system fail.


RAPID PIT STOPS Airspeeder GPs will include rapid pit stops. To facilitate this, Alauda’s engineers have developed an innovative “slide-and-lock” system for the rapid removal and replacement of batteries when on the ground.


14 /// Testing & Test Houses /// June 2021


A strategic layer is added to the sport with this approach as teams will be able to adapt battery strategy depending on the dynamic requirements of that particular section of the race. For example, for courses requiring more manoeuvrability but less straight line speed, a lighter battery pack can be easily selected at the cost of raw power or endurance.


PRE-RACE DEVELOPMENT Reaching the Airspeeder’s current stage of development hasn’t been an easy ride, with 2020 particularly having been an extraordinary year of progress for Airpseed and Alauda. The unveiling of the Mk3 craft represents a landmark moment in the development of both the racing series, Airspeed and Alauda, the manufacturer that will create the vehicles that race in it. In the Spring of 2020, the company received significant institutional backing from Saltwater Capital and Jelix Ventures. This accelerated the growth at the firm’s first technical HQ in Adelaide, Australia with senior engineers joining the firm from leading names in performance automotive, aviation and motorsport. A strategically important technical partnership was then forged


with cyber-protection firm Acronis, a significant backer of F1 and professional football. It joins global logistics giant DHL and money management firm Equals in backing a vision to hasten the dawn of a mobility revolution through sporting competition. Presence has also been established in the USA with the recruitment of a head of partnerships in New York City. In London, the commercial home of the sport, the team has grown to facilitate the rapid growth of its global fan base, setting the scene for the development of a permanent engineering base. Currently, its technical HQ is in Adelaide, Australia and commercial operations are run from London in the UK. 2021 will see growth in its existing presence in the UK through the creation of a full-time engineering base, a strategic decision made on the basis of Britain’s standing as a technical and engineering powerhouse in motor-racing and advanced aerospace development. As the sport progresses through its development phases, the company will look to draw upon this talent and create technical and engineering jobs. According to Matt Pearson, the founder of Airspeed, Britain is a globally recognised centre of excellence in motorsport and aerospace. In creating a racing series that will accelerate a mobility revolution, these skills will be crucial. “We are building an engineering base in Britain and this will lead to the creation of highly skilled jobs and strategically important proximity to the rapidly growing eVTOL industry,” he says. T&TH


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