Sharjah Innovation and Technology Park (SITP) witnessed the launch of a high-speed sky pod capable of traveling at 600 kilometers per hour, on its $14 million test track.
The research continues as a 20 KM test track for the high-speed “uFlash” pods is being developed. In January, a working test track for the sky pods that were designed by Belarus-based Unitsky String Technologies (UST) was unveiled. As a functional model, the company launched high-speed passenger pods suspended on a track above the desert in Sharjah to show the potential for string-rail transport.
The pods ran successfully previously in wind tunnel tests, and designers believe that a longer track will allow the technology to advance even further. A longer track is expected to cost around $230 million, while funding is still a long way off.
“We need to get land and finances to build a longer test track. We cannot build this at our own expense. It will cost $230 million to build a 20 KM test track to take the pods up to 500kph. To get to 600kph, it would need to be even longer,” said Dr. Anatoli Unitsky, General designer of string transport systems, UST.
USky pays the SITP ground rent in order to continue testing and aims to raise funds through private investments to expand the project. Development costs have so far been paid by Dr. Unitsky and private investment funds, the company said. The longest test track in Minsk is only 800 meters, where pods have been recorded traveling at a top speed of 108kph.
According to Dr. Unitsky, a power-generation platform using renewable energy to operate the string rail system would cost $580 million and require 250 hectares of land.
Despite the challenges, the project has attracted interest from countries in Europe as well as Saudi Arabia and India, Dr. Unitsky noted. Both cargo and passenger logistics can be supported by the UST system. Its developers said pods suspended on steel rails like the working testing line in Sharjah can move up to 50,000 passengers an hour at speeds approaching 150kph.
The Unitsky pods are one of several bids under consideration by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to build an elevated transport network in the emirate. Other tenders include those from China’s Zhong Tang Sky Railway Group and French transport engineers MND’s Cabline.