An amped-up racer coming off a good practice or qualifying lap will gladly tell you that his machine is flying. When a new category of motorsports makes is competitive debut next year, that old saw will no longer be spoken merely figuratively. The Australian backers of a new airborne racing vehicle, called the Airspeeder, will be demonstrating it during this week’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.
What’s an Airspeeder? Taken at its basics, it’s literally a multi-engine drone with (later) a human pilot. Officially, they’re known as octocopters, so named for the number of rotors that are powered by electric motors at the ends of each Airspeeder’s four engine pylons. The backers tell us to take it as a combination of Formula E and traditional air racing, and say that the aircraft packs a better power-to-weight ratio than the U.S. Navy’s main fighter jet, the F/A-18D Super Hornet. When it comes to air racing, I’m more of a traditionalist who favors the Allison- and Merlin-powered ex-fighters screaming around the corner pylons at the Reno Air Races. This feels more like the next step forward (up?) in X-Sports, and is a little reminiscent of the Red Bull air races that were held for several years at Indianapolis. Remotely controlled demonstration flights are slated for Goodwood, and a full schedule of piloted races is eyed for 2020.