Insights from the Experts: Using Sports to Spark the Next Transportation Revolution

A Q&A with Stephen Sidlo, Global Media & Marketing Director, Airspeeder & Alauda Aeronautics, and David Candler, Senior Director, Customer Solutions, Veritone


  • We’ll explore the historical link between transportation innovation and sports, from the steam locomotive era to modern electric flying cars.
  • Airspeeder, the world’s first racing series for electric flying cars, aims to bring everyday flying cars into reality by leveraging the excitement of sports.
  • Partnering with Veritone and base, Airspeeder seeks to democratize the eVTOL technology to bring it the world through the power of sports. 

The story of transportation is filled with innovation and the power of sports. As Britain experienced a vibrant steam locomotive industry in the 19th century, exporting that technology did not happen overnight to the United States. Prototypes were already in the works, but Peter Cooper created the first US commercial locomotive for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (now held by CSX Transportation today). In 1830, to prove the power of the steam locomotive, the Tom Thumb locomotive raced a horse-drawn car, winning the race. In 1831, B&O Railroad replaced all horses with steam locomotives. 

The first gasoline automobile in the United States was credited to bicycle mechanics J. Frank and Charles Duryea in 1893 who went on to win the first American car race in 1895. The iconic Supermarine Spitfire fighter, rising to historical fame during the fateful hours of the Battle of Britain in World War II, evolved from an airframe that flew in the Schneider Trophy races of the 1930s. In all these stories, to enact change, you need humans who dare to dream and bring that to the world through the attraction and excitement of sports. 

Today, this story continues with Veritone and Airspeeder, who aim to develop innovative technologies to bring the first manned electric vertical take-off landing (eVTOL) race to the world together. 

Stephen Sidlo Q&A

Q: Who is Airspeeder, and what’s your mission? 

Airspeeder is the world’s first racing series for crewed electric flying cars, more technically known as electric vertical take-off landing (eVTOL) vehicles. Our mission is simple—bringing the promise of everyday flying cars into reality through competitive sport. We’re pioneering a new era of mobility by enabling a seamless transition from gaming to real-world piloting, much like how Gran Turismo democratized racing, breaking barriers to entry for enthusiasts around the globe. 

To do that, we’ve recognized that we need a strong foundation in best-in-class suppliers in the technology, manufacturing, and broadcast space. To start and grow this new form of mobility revolution in aeronautics, we’re using sports to help drive this innovation, transforming the perception of flying cars from fiction to reality. The approach, as discussed previously, is not a new one. We’re following a blueprint that’s been laid down across generations through other transportation innovations seen throughout history.

Q: What are your key challenges in making this mission a reality? 

We face two challenges:

  1. How do we get eVTOL adoption to take hold across the world? 
  2. How do we create a modern entertainment product that excites the next two generations? 

The two really go hand in hand. We realized that to grow the concept and properly innovate with technology to make it a reality, we needed to use sports as that vehicle (no pun intended) to grow the business and increase the interest that fuels wider adoption. That means having a strong base of business partners who are leaders in their space to help validate our concept for the industry, putting our best foot forward with intentional innovation. Additionally, investing in cutting-edge camera technology and broadcast distribution is crucial in captivating audiences and transforming their perception of flying cars. We want kids to see themselves as the next Top Gun Maverick or Luke Skywalker when they watch our sport.

Q: In what ways do you intend to grow the sport? 

To fuel adoption, you have to democratize the technology. That means training and building our pilot pool. That’s where we are getting creative, using remote drone races as a starting point to grow the sport initially. But we are entering a new phase with a video game in the works to tap into eSports. We envision someone becoming a pilot on Tuesday, participating in an online series on Wednesday, and, in a couple of months, becoming an actual Airspeeder pilot. 

As seen in the recent movie Gran Turismo (2023), we want to democratize the sport so that anyone can become a driver without the barriers that prevent people from doing so in other leagues. By incorporating elements from gaming to real-world piloting, we are breaking barriers to entry and making the sport more accessible and inclusive.

In addition to democratizing access to piloting, we’re pursuing free-to-air (FTA) deals in the first few years. Since we’re new, building awareness is crucial, so placements in movies, music, and games will be key alongside the live broadcast of flying car racing. By integrating our races into popular entertainment mediums, we aim to captivate a wider audience and ignite their interest in Airspeeder.

Furthermore, we recognize the importance of human stories. It’s key that fans get to know our pilots. Drawing from my experience working on projects for World Rugby and Goodwood, I learned that taking the time to build trust in athletes and your audience pays dividends. If you lose the human connection, you lose the fan. Therefore, we’re committed to showcasing the personalities and journeys of our pilots, fostering a deeper connection between fans and the sport of Airspeeder.

But to do any of these requires a complex system of capturing, storing, analyzing, distributing, and ultimately monetizing our media. We are truly at the bleeding edge with camera technology, media management and broadcast distribution, and the vehicles themselves. All of this takes partners, and that’s where base and Veritone come into play. 

David Candler Q&A

Q: How is Veritone helping grow the sport alongside the Airspeeder? 

Veritone is a leader in designing human-centered AI solutions. One of these solutions, Digital Media Hub (“DMH”), will act as a critical foundation for Airspeeder as they build out their current and future sports media proposition. With DMH, they’ll be able to manage their digital and broadcast content and distribute it to the appropriate entities, including rights holders (broadcasters and OTT providers), sponsors, teams, drivers, manufacturers, and press and publishers. After processing their media with AI, they can streamline multiple workflows, leveraging logo recognition and speech-to-text to find branded moments and create packages for key sponsors, and delivery via secure access to DMH. 

Given that many of these races will take place in remote locations, they needed technical Cloud and AI suppliers that could not only provide the underlying technology but also offer the bandwidth to provide global secure access to this content via the cloud with accelerated file transfer and cloud storage solutions from base, an integrated cloud media solutions provider, enables smart global content distribution and accessibility across the globe for Airspeeder.

Q: In what ways does AI enable media operations? 

Veritone already has proven expertise in the sports realm, streamlining media operations and uncovering revenue opportunities with our customers who may not have been able to maximize their media value otherwise. End to end, Veritone has expertise in delivering live event services, archive content licensing opportunities, and improved AI-powered media workflows so that as soon as content is available, the teams of Airspeeder can funnel the most relevant moments to the appropriate stakeholders. At the other end, they can leverage monetization opportunities to help grow revenue while unlocking the scale needed to reach audiences worldwide from the most remote locations. 

Q: What is the goal of this partnership? 

To sum up, we want to innovate alongside our customers and, in the case of Airspeeder, use our key technology and services to help grow the sport on a global basis. For this to be successful, innovation is essential, and we pride ourselves on always positioning Veritone to expand what’s humanly possible through the power of AI. You might say flying cars? Why? The real question should be, why not? AI was once thought of as something too sci-fi to imagine, but look at the world today. We believe the same for Airspeeder’s mission. However, the final result requires multiple innovative steps along the way. Our partnership with base and Airspeeder aims to be  the catalyst that brings a new sport to the world and potentially alter how people envision day-to-day travel around town. They might not be sitting in traffic but, instead, a holding pattern. 

Want to get involved or learn more? Connect with Stephen or David on LinkedIn and help make the future a reality.