The first crew-capable eVTOL racing aircraft has flown and its developer says things will move quickly from here toward an organized race series. The Alauda Aeronautics EXA Mk3 took off from an undisclosed location in the deserts of Southern Australia with reps from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. The EXA was flown autonomously but there’s room for a pilot/passenger and the ultimate plan is for crewed races on a high-tech circuit. For now, however, the drones will be flown remotely and the first races are planned for later this year.

“These races will see elite pilots drawn from aviation, motorsport and eSports backgrounds to remotely pilot the world’s only racing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft,” the company said in a news release. The races will be streamed and give viewers the experience of being in the drones as they blast around the track. Next year, the plan is to put people onboard the drones. Company founder Matthew Pearson said that racing will foster technology development that will benefit the whole eVTOL industry but in the meantime, a new sport is being born. “These historic first flights are just the start and we are all excited to begin a momentous new chapter in motorsport’s rich legacy.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. The very concept of a “manned drone” is hilarious – isn’t the definition of a drone “an unmanned aircraft”?!

  2. Doh!! The accepted meaning of Drone is Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Unless the occupant has no input into the flight then they are aircraft NOT Drones, and should be rgulated and certified as such!~!!!!

    • Replying to my own comment. There is a precedent from the Vietnam War, when Beechcraft QU-22 Igloo White relay / control aircraft were pilotted remotely but carried a human crew member (obviously a particular kind o crazy crew member).

  3. Why put a human in an aircraft being flown remotely unless that human can override the remote pilot in an emergency? Racing doesn’t carry cargo or passengers from point A to point B and adding unnecessary weight to a racing aircraft sounds counter-productive. This might be more about marketing than anything else.

  4. Well, at least AVweb did not call it a flying car, like all of the news outlets have done. I wonder who would volunteer to be the “passenger” on a remotely powered, oversized drone?

  5. Perhaps “person-carrying drone” would have been more accurate. Does anyone think this is anything other than a proving ground for the driver-less air-taxi? One would think that such technology would be better test-proven in existing 2-D taxis, which are terrifying enough.

  6. Human-carrying drones racing each other? Unless betting on the races becomes a thing, it won’t be long before we’ll be hearing another round of “We were ahead of our time…” etc.