Electric air racing just took a significant step forward. The Verge reports that Airspeeder recently completed the first test flight for its electric flying race car, the Alauda Aeronautics Mk3. A remote pilot flew an uncrewed version of the eVTOL aircraft over southern Australia with the country's Civil Aviation Safety Authority watching over the test.
The machine can reach altitudes up to 1,640 feet and hit 62MPH in 2.8 seconds. Remote pilots fly in a cockpit-like environment through virtual courses, with LiDAR and radar helping to prevent collisions. Crucially, the design is meant to minimize downtime. While the Airspeeder racer can only fly for up to 15 minutes on a charge, teams can swap batteries in as little as 20 seconds.
The test flight clears the path for a three-event EXA uncrewed racing series, starting later in 2021, that will feature up to four teams with two pilots each. Data from those competitions, including dummy "tele-robotic" avatars in the cockpits, will ideally lead to directly human-piloted races in 2022.
Airspeeder will still deal with many of the challenges of electric flight, including the short-lived batteries. All the same, this test and the subsequent races suggest EV air races are quickly becoming practical. It may be more a question of refining the technology than getting it into the skies in the first place.