Four innovative technologies for the future of flying race cars

We’ve shown you what Airspeeder is and have given you a look behind the scenes, but do you know about the technology that goes into racing a flying car?

Pulling in experts across Telstra Purple, we’ve highlighted four different technologies that support flying race cars: from mixed reality, network design and delivery, processing, and data simulation (Edge Compute), to broadcasting technology.

We’ve also got a video about Airspeeder and augmented reality, highlighting the great relationships and technology that have made the dream a reality:

Augmented and virtual reality (Written by Jotham Ritorze, Cross Reality Team Lead)

It’s one thing to fly, it’s another to hold a race with multiple speeders in fierce competition against each other, trying to hit an optimal line along a 3-dimensional racetrack. A racetrack we might add, that isn’t there – at least not physically. But out on a Salt Lake in South Australia this is exactly what is being done, and this is where augmented reality comes into play with some clever work by Telstra Purple.

To achieve this, a 3D racetrack is first designed, created, and matched to real-world GPS co-ordinates. Next, we combine this with the live 3D telemetry data streaming in from the speeders to accurately place each speeder into this virtual track. This is enough to create a virtual map (and is in fact what we use to give a live map, track limits and safety zones to Race Control), but we then go a step further to allow the pilots to see the track in front of them while they fly the speeders virtually.

Combining the positional telemetry, live camera feed, and virtual track together with the use of Unreal Engine, a 3D computer graphics game engine, Telstra Purple was able to create a virtual track over the pilot’s live first-person view (FPV) feeds, in near real-time and at low latency, so that the pilots are now flying within an augmented reality track with heads-up-display (HUD) for key flight information. Tracking of the other speeders relative to the pilot’s Speeder is also processed and displayed to give the pilot additional spatial and situational awareness, allowing them to focus on the race with the information they need.

According to Jotham Ritorze of Telstra Purple: The key is in aligning the physical and virtual spaces, specifically alignment of the live camera-feed and the virtual camera. You need super accurate and low-latency data to achieve this, but once you have it, the effect is magical, the track is there.

Processing and data simulation (Written by Dom Raniszewski, Principal Consultant)

Flying Speeders in the open is the ultimate test: the pilot and the machine finally meet their natural habitat to handle its unpredictability.

Unfortunately, no matter how far we can push simulation models, the natural environment will always introduce variables that are too complex or too unpredictable. These factors affect the real flights and test the performance and design of Speeders. Collecting the telemetry data from the Speeders while flying gives us an insight into how those factors affect on-board systems.

That's why robust data collection is critical for Airspeeder research and the developmental process.

Telstra Purple’s solution closed the final feedback loop in the Airspeeder testing process. It allows the capture of high-frequency data from several systems and streams it to the ground systems using an ultra-low latency network stack. As a result, the team on the ground can not only see in near real-time what is happening to the Speeder in the air but can also replay the data for future analysis.

The data collected during the Speeder’s flight represents the systems conditions, as well as the messages exchanged between ground systems, pilot stations and the Speeders. That data creates an accurate digital representation of the testing environment that allows Airspeeder to replay the race in its raw state or take it to the simulation stack, where parameters can be altered, leading to the development of more accurate simulation models.

The Telstra Purple telemetry system and network stack directly integrate with the Airspeeder simulation environment and contribute to training pilots and designing safer and faster vehicles compared to previous versions of the Speeders.

The system that underpins this sport reflects how eVTOL vehicles may travel in cities of the future. We need these systems to talk to each other and adapt under stressful conditions. The sport allows both Telstra and Airspeeder to stress test the system of future urban mobility.

Network solution design and delivery (Written by Mark Pase, Principal Consultant & David Sexton, Principal Consultant)

For the Airspeeder network solution design and delivery, Telstra Purple performed an analysis of the various radio spectrums used to operate an Airspeeder EXA Series race. We then designed the radio channel usage to prevent radio interference across systems, including the Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) network. We performed the design, deployment and configuration of the DSRC and point-to-point Wi-Fi systems with the networking and computing infrastructure on the ground.

Two roadside DSRC units are used to provide coverage for the Airspeeder virtual racing circuit and a point-to-point Wi-Fi solution connects the roadside units to the ground networking infrastructure.

What is DSRC?

DSRC is a wireless communication standard that has been under development for applications in automotive safety since around the year 2000. It is an enhancement of Wi-Fi technology that supports data transfer between high-speed vehicles and between vehicles to roadside infrastructure to support intelligent transportation systems. Use cases that apply are vehicle collision avoidance, vehicle emergency warnings systems and electronic toll collection systems.

Cohda Wireless in Adelaide, a specialist in intelligent transportation systems, manufactures the roadside units and the on-board units that provide the DRSC network between the Airspeeders and the infrastructure on the ground. The telemetry data that is generated from the Airspeeder flight computers is transmitted to the ground over the DSRC network to the systems that collect and process it.

Broadcasting technology (Written by Dom Raniszewski, Principal Consultant)

Picture yourself enjoying a car race on a large high-resolution screen.

Imagine dynamic camera angles on takeovers and tight corners. You’re watching a driver focussed on controlling a vehicle as if nothing else existed.

Imagine witnessing this union of a human and a machine at their ultimate performance.

Now add to that, one more dimension.

The car takes off the ground, and the physical circuit no longer limits the vehicle. It soars through the sky, rejoicing in the new freedom.

Imagine yourself as a part of this experience.

Broadcasting has always been a cutting-edge requirement of Airspeeder. Not only does Airspeeder deliver an entirely new experience to its fans, but it also pushes the boundaries of capturing and producing broadcast-ready content under extreme technical constraints. The weight budget, available power supply and portability requirements of the vehicles and the Airspeeder race all add to the difficulty. Under these conditions, the media system must capture, store and deliver high-resolution, broadcast-ready video from up to eight high-performance cameras mounted on each vehicle, simultaneously. The quality can’t be a trade-off.

Telstra Purple helps Airspeeder prototype an onboard media solution that comes in an extremely small form factor and power requirements to deliver production-quality video. We’ve done that by developing a bespoke video capture workload and deploying it on high-performance Edge Compute boards with hardware encoding acceleration and interfacing through robust and small capture devices. In addition, we extended camera control protocols and integrated them with our communications solution and ground stack to allow the team to check the status of the video systems and control them remotely.

Together with Airspeeder we achieved something new in media broadcasting.

The technology behind Airspeeder has the potential to revolutionise numerous sectors of industry, including agribusiness, civil infrastructure, utilities, emergency services, defence, transportation, and more.

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