After more than 350 test flights and two demonstration races with its remotely piloted Airspeeder Mk3 eVTOL, Alauda Aeronautics has now revealed the design for the first crewed racer, the Mk4, which boasts a top speed of 360 km/h (224 mph) and a range of 300 km (186 miles).
The journey began in 2017 when Australian entrepreneur Matt Pearson launched a Kickstarter campaign proposing the creation of manned electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) racing machines and a new aerial sport around them. Despite the campaign’s cancellation due to insufficient backers, the Alauda Aeronautics team continued their development efforts.
Airspeeder made its international public debut in 2019 and launched a full-sized working prototype in early 2021. The first uncrewed EAX Series head-to-head race took place in 2022 around a kilometer-long circuit near Adelaide.
The newly unveiled Mk4 design represents a complete redesign of the eVTOL racer. The racing machine measures 5.73 m (18.79 ft) in length, 3.62 m (11.87 ft) in width, and 1.44 m (4.72 ft) in height, with a weight of 950 kg (2,094 lb). In contrast to the 100% battery-electric Mk3, the Mk4 manned racer incorporates a 1,000-kW (1,340-hp) hydrogen turbogenerator, called the Thunderstrike engine, to power its batteries and motors.
This engine features a unique combuster created using 3D printing techniques developed in the space industry for rocket engines, which keeps the hydrogen flame temperature relatively low and significantly reduces nitrous oxide emissions. To maintain a minimal carbon footprint, the company plans to source green hydrogen for fuel.
Capable of reaching its top speed from a standing start in just 30 seconds, the Airspeeder Mk4 boasts four pairs of shielded rotors mounted on 3D-printed gimbals. An AI-powered flight controller adjusts the tilt angle for take-off and flight, making the Mk4 highly maneuverable and precise for close-action racing. Its handling has been compared to that of a jet fighter or Formula 1 racing car.
The Mk4’s design resembles an F1 race car, featuring a carbon fiber monocoque with large air intakes, front and rear wings, and short mid-body box wings. Although details have not been shared, cameras, sensors, and communication equipment can be seen throughout the frame.
The Airspeeder Mk4 made its public debut at Southern Australia’s Southstart innovation festival on March 9. Alauda has confirmed that flight testing is already underway, team entries for the crewed racing series are now open, and the first races are expected to take place in 2024.
According to Matt Pearson, the world is ready for crewed flying car racing. He said, “We have built the vehicles, developed the sport, secured the venues, attracted the sponsors and technical partners. Now is the time for the world’s most progressive, innovative and ambitious automotive brands, OEM manufacturers and motorsport teams to be part of a truly revolutionary new motorsport.” Pearson envisions the Airspeeder Mk4 as a groundbreaking vehicle that will engage in blade-to-blade racing, piloted by highly skilled individuals in their fields.
Source: Alauda Aeronautics