Behind the scenes of Airspeeder: the future of flying race cars

We sat down with Airspeeder and Alauda Aeronautics Head of Media, Stephen Sidlo to get a behind-the-scenes look at Airspeeder.

Curious about what Airspeeder is? Our previous article and video can be found here: What exactly is an Airspeeder? Flying race cars, explained

In our chat, we spoke about Stephen’s background and experience, Airspeeder’s challenges, the technology that Telstra Purple supports Airspeeder with, and what’s next in the world of flying cars.

Do you have any questions regarding Airspeeder or Telstra Purple? Send an enquiry here.

We also have a video that shows how data visualisation is used with Airspeeder. See that below: 

So, who exactly is Stephen Sidlo?

Stephen Sidlo has been the Head of Media for Airspeeder and Alauda Aeronautics for two and half years. He comes from a background of media and sport, having worked on World Rugby, Major League Baseball, Formula-E and other projects. 

One of the drawcards for Stephen to work with Airspeeder was the opportunity to shape what the sport will be and the media proposition that comes with that. It’s tremendously fascinating and multi-dimensional, and in his words, “It’s just not a new piece of tech, it’s not a new ball sport, it’s not a gimmicky weekend sport, it’s a huge operation and a brand-new motorsport coming to market that’s never been seen before.”

“It’s not just a new piece of tech, it’s not a new ball sport, it’s not a gimmicky weekend sport, it’s a huge operation and a brand-new motorsport coming to market that’s never been seen before.”

Stephen’s primary role is to help shape what the new sport of flying race cars will look like for audiences around the world, including articulating it and educating them. 

What may seem straight-forward on first thought, turns out to be quite complex. 

Airspeeder is a sport with a blank slate, with no legacy and an almost endless number of possible paths. Creating the way that the sport will look and feel to audiences requires an immense amount of qualitative and quantitative data from a range of sources, including but not limited to eSports, pop culture references, traditional sports, motorsports, science, and technology. 

What is the foundation of the Airspeeder sports model? 

One of the most common questions for Stephen and his team is about the model of the sport and how it functions as a sport. One way to look at Airspeeder is to think of Formula 1. Not in the way of flying cars going 300km/h, but more so in Airspeeder not being a spec series, but instead Alauda building a ‘stock’ vehicle that teams can build upon. 

“It answers the question of why don’t I have a flying car? It’s because there’s no competition on how to iterate a flying car, and we’ve just created that.”

“Teams will be able to eventually adapt their vehicles to win races, so, Team A may want to shroud their propellors because it will make them go faster in corners, some may not. Some may want to change their wings, so they get more lift. Some may want to overtake underneath as well as over the top, so they need fatter blades.” There are numerous variations and it is up to the competing teams to determine what works best for them (within the regulations of course).

Airspeeder want to be able to allow teams to make iterations because that’s how they’re going to get change and evolution.

What are Airspeeder’s challenges?

One of the biggest challenges for Airspeeder is building “air traffic control”.

There are multiple speeders, filming drones, and cameras on the ground, all happening in a remote location. They're essentially constructing an airport. Furthermore, they’ve got many speeders in the sky, and the pilots know where they’re going but the viewer doesn’t because they can’t see a physical track or gates. 

Airspeeder requires accurate GPS positioning, a game engine to “build worlds that the audience can see” and be able to accomplish all of this in real-time over a network so it is broadcast to the spectators. Additionally, they must ensure the available filming drones on the market are fast enough to keep up with the speeders, that they’re adaptable enough and that they have collision avoidance systems on board.

To summarise, Stephen stated “When you layer on the infrastructure that’s needed to be able to do that, you realise that nothing’s been developed for it because we’re the first. So, the system behind the capture and transmission of it is a huge undertaking, a huge project that we pull in Telstra and other partners to help us do that. But it’s a beast, and it needs management, it needs to be shaped, and everyone needs to be aligned on what the goal is.” 

How has Telstra Purple supported Airspeeder?

In addition to bringing in partners to take on the massive project, Stephen mentioned Telstra and Telstra Purple's ongoing support: “For me to bring a product to market, Telstra’s technology has to be there, so we have to have connectivity or else I’m not able to send video feeds to a race control unit that is able to make decisions on the fly during a race, like Formula 1”. 

“For me to bring a product to market, Telstra’s technology has to be there”

When a partner enters Airspeeder’s world, they need to have an “innovative and modular rapid prototyping mindset”. Some companies can struggle because they’re big beasts and it takes time to turn around projects, but Airspeeder and Alauda need to work at lightyear pace. 

Airspeeder also need GPS and a way to give information to the pilots, so they can make decisions when flying. If they can’t make decisions and fly correctly, then the rule set collapses.

Airspeeder and Alauda Aeronautics work in tandem with Telstra, but Stephen believes that infrastructure is one of the biggest pieces to the puzzle. There has been a tremendous amount of work to get to this point, but the next phase is to build the infrastructure to bring this sport to viewers. "It's air traffic management, transmission, and storage," Stephen says, "and Telstra helps us achieve that."

What’s next for Airspeeder?

The biggest milestone for Airspeeder is to man the vehicles. The next 12 months are pivotal, and Airspeeder are doing the first test flights with a pilot on board. After that is test racing with multiple vehicles together, and then finally in proximity racing together.

It's a significant task since a safety case must first be developed, and the pilots must be taught. "How do you construct an entire system for pilot training that has never been done before?" "How do you train a pilot for a flying car?" They're working on numerous projects at the same time, and Stephen has stated that they'll be focusing on the vehicle for the next six months.

“The speeder is going to have someone on board. There’s a huge story there to follow on who becomes the first pilot.”

Airspeeder is preparing a future series of events that will make use of Telstra Purple's experts among a variety of technologies, including mixed reality, data, cloud, edge computing and more. Airspeeder technology has the potential to revolutionise various industries, including agricultural, civil infrastructure, utilities, emergency services, defence, transportation, and others.

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