5 AUGUST 2021: USky Transport, using Unitsky String Technology designed in Belarus, has revealed its first prototype passenger line in Sharjah.The Minsk company is one of several bidding to develop a commercial passenger line in the UAE over the next two years.
Scientists revealed expansion plans for a uSky research and development centre in Sharjah.The Skyway Innovation Centre will be developed on the current testing site at the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park.It will include several lines using super-strong string technology to carry passenger and cargo pods at speeds ranging from 150kph to 500kph.
“There is huge potential here,” said Oleg Zaretskiy, chief executive of uSky Transport. “We want to move transport to the next level where there will not be obstacles on the ground or more traffic. It is offering people the concept of the future,” he observed.
In Minsk, five test lines are already operational using either a flexible, semi-rigid or rigid track structure.
Steel casing encloses the railhead, body frame, steel string and filler and is considerably cheaper than existing transport infrastructure. Structural anchors are spaced out every 50 metres, with pods elevated 15m from the ground. The system requires minimal land acquisition for construction to carry aerodynamic pods with high energy efficiency between transit sub-stations.
In 2019, the uSky Transport system, formerly named Skyway Greentech, signed an agreement with the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai to develop futuristic solutions to traffic congestion.
A similar deal was recently signed with Zhong Tang Sky Railway Group to explore “futuristic transport systems”, after the Chengdu company unveiled its prototype of a panda-themed monorail in 2016.
The Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy aims to convert 25% of all journeys in the city to autonomous by 2030.
The four-seater UCar takes less than a minute to travel the 400-metre test track at the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park.
It does so smoothly and efficiently at speeds approaching 50 kilometres per hour during tests.
Its developers, uSky Transport and Unitsky String Technologies of Belarus, will take development to a bigger test track by November, before constructing a permanent commercial line.
Longer tracks using super-strong string rail technology will have capacity to operate at up to 500kph, transporting cargo and passengers between key points across cities.
“We are now riding the future with this system,” said Oleg Zaretskiy, chief executive of uSky Transport.
“We have had great interest from all over the world, but primarily in the UAE with some prominent developers here.”
The alternative transport system offers safety, comfort and affordability, he said.“The first commercial project will be available in the UAE by September 2023, with construction due to begin very soon,” Mr Zaretskiy said.
The elevated system was designed in Minsk by Dr Anatoli Unitsky, a scientist and member of the Russian Cosmonautics Federation.
A cargo version would be capable of delivering 12-metre containers at high speed, which could take heavy goods vehicles off roads and into the sky.
Points across a network of suspended steel cables will deliver hubs for residential or office space, all connected by high-tensile steel wire. Pods move independently, rather than on a conventional pulley system of a cable car that limits speed to around 12-15kph. The technology provides high-speed intercity travel at a fraction of the cost of other regular transport systems, at less than $200 a metre, the company claims.
The company has 600 engineers operating a test site in Belarus at the Echotechnopark in Maryina Gorka, where a further five 800-metre tracks are in operation. A longer test track in Sharjah will stretch across 2.4km, with eight interspaced steel support structures and concrete structures acting as anchors at each end.
The cost of construction largely depends on terrain and eventual passenger flow across a completed network.
Mr Zaretskiy said a passenger line is likely to be built ahead before a cargo service. “It gives us an advantage to compete with other transport systems, as it will be more financially viable, the system has enormous potential.The UAE is our base. It is the most promising country for our technology and we have a lot of support in Sharjah.It is not just a transport system but an ecological solution to a world already congested with traffic.”
The pods’ carbon footprint is also lower than regular rail travel, with electric emergency batteries partially powered by renewable energy. Feasibility studies into cargo costs along a network have been estimated at $1 per 100 tonnes for every kilometre travelled.
Dzianis Yunitski, managing director of uSky Transport, whose father Dr Unitsky developed the system, said the prototype track was the culmination of decades of research.
“This makes us all very proud, we have all worked very hard alongside my father towards making this project a reality. My father trusted his research and has so many other ideas to improve global transport.From the very beginning we had faith that this would one day happen.”
This article first appeared in The National.