Watch: The F1 of the skies completes its first-ever circuit race

This is just a sneak peek of what can be expected in 2024.
Ameya Paleja
First-ever flying car circuit race.
First-ever flying car circuit race.

Airspeeder/YouTube 

The electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) industry achieved a new landmark after the Airspeeder EXA series, the equivalent of Formula 1 in the skies, completed its first-ever circuit race. The highly charged event consisted of just two pilots but had all the drama you would expect from a racing event.

The air transport sector is poised for an overhaul as eVTOL aircraft have come of age and are now capable of cruising at even 140 miles (225 km) an hour. Major airline companies are also betting on these smaller aircraft to address the problems of congestion in urban areas.

However, for the sector to grow as a whole, development needs to happen in other areas too. In April, Interesting Engineering reported how a company in the U.K. built an airport for eVTOLs in just 15 months and has plans to build 200 such structures in over 65 cities. Events like Airspeeder can be testing grounds for companies involved in building eVTOLs as well as their supporting infrastructure.

The first-ever eVTOL circuit race

The racing event was held in the picturesque ambiance of the pink salt flats near Lake Lochiel near Adelaide, Australia. The event featured just two pilots who were given the license to take their 13 feet (4.1 m) eVTOLs to the extreme limits in a remote race setting.

The race was conducted over a 0.62 miles ( 1 km) sky track using augmented reality and had all the features of a motorsport race ranging from engineering and team control stations to a rapid pitstop involving a battery swap.

Prior to this, the two pilots, Fabio Tischler and Zephatali Walsh, had spent countless hours on the simulator trying to perfect their moves while the more than 270 test flights of the eVTOL were conducted leading up to this moment.

The three-lap event had a flying start with three overtakes on the first lap alone. The high-speed space that also gave the pilots the ability to maneuver vertically to outsmart their opponents saw the pilots fly their race craft within three feet (1 m) of each other, with Walsh crossing the virtual line first.

What's in store in the future

The EXA is the first in a series of remotely piloted races that will be conducted in the run-up to the fully crewed Airspeeder Grand Prixs planned to begin in 2024. Future EXA events will also feature more pilots on the grid, with former F1 racer Bruno Senna set to join the ranks.

The low demands of infrastructure and the use of digital sky tracks mean that Airspeeder events can be conducted in a range of landscapes and not be limited to conventional racing destinations alone.

The sport has been in the making for just three years and is just a sign of a new future that awaits us when eVTOLs take to the skies.

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