Technology entrepreneur Matt Pearson was searching for a new challenge after his internet business Honcho made him a multi-millionaire. A science fiction fan inspired by Elon Musk’s Tesla, he set his sights on designing an electric flying car.
Now his Airspeeder racing series is being touted as the future of motorsport. The F1 of the skies will see manned, open cockpit ‘multicopters’ competing at speeds of up to 80mph in a Star Wars-style aerial dual. Pearson hopes it will one day inspire the possibility of domestic flying cars.
An Airspeeder features a set of rotor blades at each corner and has the ability to take off and land vertically, just like a helicopter. Roughly the size of a bobsleigh, the batteries last about ten minutes and pilots will need to swap machines at regular pit stops during races.
Dangerous? Not a bit, as the company behind the idea, Alauda Aeronautics, has developed collision avoidance technology, similar to systems already starting to appear in semi-autonomous cars we already drive on the road.
Earlier this month, the company announced it had teamed up with Acronis to launch the series. The cyber protection specialists are already a major supporter of Formula 1, as well as the electric car spin-off competition Formula E.
Part of the deal will include the use of machine vision technology and LiDAR – a system that measures distances using laser lights - to create a virtual ‘force field’ around the Airspeeders and ensure they don’t crash into each other.
Covid has slowed down development of the racing series, now hoped to start in 2021, but two events are already confirmed – one in the remote Australian outback town of Coober Pedy and the other in California’s Mojave Desert.
“It’s a very exciting prospect. We are already in discussions with other locations around the world and the interest in the series has been amazing,” says Pearson, who runs his futuristic racing business from Adelaide.
South African-born Pearson says he ‘bounced’ around the world until the age of 22, when he arrived in Sydney and co-founded his software start-up called Honcho – a business-in-a-box service for fledgling companies.
“It was very successful and left me in the fortunate position of deciding what I’d like to do for the rest of my life. I was fascinated by the idea of flying cars – an idea the world has known about for years but waited a long time to realise.
“I think we have seen the idea of flying cars filter into our lives with drones but there are obviously some major barriers to overcome first.”
The idea of controlling air space infested with personal flying machines has already proved a problem monitoring drones. But with Uber making a flying car and Google guru Larry Page testing autonomous taxis, anything is possible.
Pearson says a comprehensive, automated air traffic control system would still need to be in place before the time comes for thousands of us to take off from our driveway and commute to the office.
Until then, Airspeeder is still looking for more experienced pilots to compete in the racing series. Aspiring Luke Skywalkers should visit airspeeder.com.
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