String dreams about high speeds

Projects for the creation of high-speed transport are of vital interest to players of the global transport market. The General designer of SkyWay Anatoly Yunitskiy shared his point of view on how it should develop.

Test sections

Anatoly, at what stage are the projects of building SkyWay transport in Belarus and   Australia?

 – In Belarus the project is at the stage of building test track sections – freight, urban and intercity high-speed ones – for certification and demonstration of our SkyWay transport and infrastructure technology of the fourth generation.

At the moment, we are completing the rail-string overpass for a 1 km urban route (we plan to extend it for another 15 km to demonstrate the high-speed technology in 2017). We also started the construction of a light passenger track (for parks) of 800 meter length. We plan to demonstrate these lines in the fall of 2016 – after the trade fair InnoTrans (Berlin), where we will demonstrate our rolling stock.

In Australia we are in cooperation with Rod Hook′s Company (ex-Head of the Department of transport of South Australia). We have started to design a pilot route connecting the campus of the Flinders University in Adelaide with a railway station (500 m long, 50 m level difference). In June, representatives of Australian engineering and construction companies will arrive in Minsk to create a consortium and expand the activities on the emplementation of more ambitious SkyWay projects in Australia.

When could the construction of demonstration sections in Belarus be completed? What will be the speed of passenger traffic?

– The first line of the test urban passenger route is planned to be completed in the fall of 2016 and its demonstration speed will be about 100 km/h (track length: 1 km).

We plan to extend the length of the track up to 16 km next year so as to demonstrate a speed of up to 500 km/h in its middle. To obtain 600 km/h speed, the route should be extended to the length of 25 km.

 

Is it possible to build a SkyWay high-speed route in Russia? What is needed for that?

 

– It is not only possible to build it, but it is also very necessary to do it, especially in the current uneasy political situation, when we have to rely only upon Russian (or Belarusian) technological developments. Especially in such an important strategic industry for the Russian Federation as transport and infrastructure.

 

For this, as for any other transport-infrastructure project, appropriate investments and "green light" from the State are required. Moreover, our proposed technology is cheaper by at least ten times than any other known transport systems of elevated type. We are ready to do the rest by ourselves, including attraction of upfront investment. Such conditions are available in Australia. So why can't they be in Russia?

 

There should be several such routes with the design speed of 500 km/hour: "North – South"

(St.-Petersburg – Moscow – Sochi – Simferopol) and "West – East" (Moscow – Vladivostok, with the extension of one-way lines to Beijing and Seoul and via Sakhalin – to Tokyo; in the opposite direction – via Minsk to Kaliningrad, London, and Paris). It is possible to start this project from the route "Moscow – Minsk" – our fraternal nations are in need of such SkyWay route, on which a journey would have taken an hour and a half. This project will pay back within three years even if the ticket price is $30 (this ticket costs today an average of $100 on the railway).

Innovations at the start

Can your company share experience how to implement innovative projects in practice? What is needed to start them?

– The basis of any hardware project is an engineering technology, not the technology, which appeared suddenly and out of nowhere, but the technology, the history of which can be traced. The history of such breakthrough technologies is far from ideal, described in the textbooks. For example, the history of string transport (and its author and General designer), who for 40 years from the idea to its practical embodiment has acquired thousands of rumors and speculations, which, of course, greatly affects its practical implementation.

In addition to the main ideologist and the "engine" of the project, there is also a need for a team of professional specialists in narrow fields of expertise – transport engineering (including ergonomics, aerodynamics, dynamics of high-speed traffic), infrastructure and transport construction (including design of pre-stressed transport overpasses, high-rise buildings and structures), design of automated control, systems of safety, energy supply, communications and much more.

 

Our team today has more than 120 engineers, projectors, designers, planners, prepared in one of the strongest engineering schools in the world – the Belarusian one. Our SkyWay design school in Minsk is growing and soon it will include 200, and then a thousand professionals. Though only 1.5 years ago, I was the only employee of Skyway Technologies Co., which actually carries out scientific research and experimental design work on the string technologies. The third thing necessary for successful work, is a multilateral support from those who will be consumers of the final product – transport services – that is, ordinary people. And for this support, we have now more than 200 thousand people from 65 countries.

 

A glimpse of the future

 

How do you see the future of transportation? What will be the speeds of the passenger and the cargo traffic, for example, in 2050?

– There is a great gap in the global economy now – information moves in seconds, money − in minutes, cargo and people move on average with the speeds of the end of the 19th century. This gap does not allow to make a qualitative leap in the sustainable development of society and economy, as well as indirectly causes the growing crises. The strongest damage from all modes of transport to the environment also contradicts to the idea of a sound society. The high cost of transport infrastructure in the construction and operation makes it inaccessible to a number of countries and poor population (even in Russia, there is a cancellation of electric trains, though needed, but inefficient).

Therefore, the transport of the future should be high-speed, environmentally friendly, safe and inexpensive.

As regards the speeds by 2050, everything depends on the development of not only high-speed transport, but also on materials science, composite materials, nanotechnologies, power industry, automation, safety systems and a whole range of related sciences and technologies. Innovative transport solutions, offered today in different countries, such as vacuum tubes, are too "raw" in engineering terms and in the current situation of the technology development are rather posing more questions than have answers. Therefore, if we try to predict the speeds in the existing physical environment (in the presence of atmospheric air and friction), operational speeds of movement over 600 km/h are ineffective – because of the risk of such movement and high energy costs.

What is the difference of the string transport of the 4th (latest) generation from previous models? What will be the 5th (next) generation of SkyWay transport? Will such trains be able to accelerate upto speeds above 500 km/h?

– We are constantly working to optimize the technology, but like all developers, we'd like to keep secret the things that we want to demonstrate in the fall of 2016. A prime example of what distinguishes the 4th generation from the previous ones are the phenomenal results that we have achieved in the aerodynamics of the rolling stock. The latest tests, conducted this year in the wind tunnel, showed the aerodynamic drag coefficient CX of the unibus close to the theoretical limit – we obtained the value of 0.04. Moreover, this index is not that of an abstract ideal body of rotation, but that of a particular vehicle, the outlines of which can not be ideal due to the presence of wheels, doors, air intakes, etc.

Aerodynamics is a key indicator of the transport energy efficiency at high speeds. The practical results achieved by us is a serious breakthrough to the future and we are ahead of the whole world in it. For example, one of the best sports cars Bugatti – the most expensive, most powerful and the fastest car in the world approved for use on public roads, – has the aerodynamics by 10 times worse. With due account for the spoiler (in the unibus a spoiler is not necessary, as there is no roadbed and the resulting screening effect), without which this hypercar will just fly up above the roadway, the index CX is equal to 0.42. Therefore, with the engine capacity of 1125 kW it has a top speed of only 430 km/h (to achieve a speed of 500 km/h it will need an engine with the capacity of 1,800 kW, 600 km/h – 3,000 kW).

 

What are the plans of implementing similar projects in different countries in the future?

– Due to the fact that the technology, especially that of the fourth generation, has not been implemented yet anywhere in the world and belongs to the category of innovations, a number of countries that expressed interest (among them Russia, as confirmed by the minutes of the Working group of the Ministry of transport of the Russian Federation dated March 25, 2016) expect the demonstration of our test tracks in the fall of 2016. Following the technology demonstration, we have already planned a number of meetings with the representatives of those States to obtain orders for specific targeted projects – there are dozens of them on all continents and there is no reason to specify them.

Let us recall the origins

How did you come to the idea to build a string transport?

– I have been engaged with the idea of string transport for 40 years. The work received a great impulse in the development, when in the eighties of the last century I was supported by the Federation of cosmonautics of the USSR, and I became its member. We considered various options of the non-rocket exploration of the near-Earth space – at that time nobody feared such projects and a move in that direction was actively encouraged. The idea of pre-stressed structures is not new and is widely used in technology, for example, in bridge structures. However, the whole complex of innovations, developed by me as the General designer, allowed to create at that time a string transport – low-cost and effective engineering solutions for transportation both on land and in space at speeds from 100 to 28 thousand kilometers per hour.

Forty years ago, I was beginning my research activities from the tests in the vacuum tube, since I knew these century-old ideas, including those from Russian scientists and inventors. Then I realized that the vacuum is not necessary – forvacuum, i.e. pre-vacuum is sufficient. I have found all required engineering solutions and at the same time also realized the complexity and high cost of their implementation. (Today's concepts of our colleagues from the United States and Russia on the arrangement of ultra-high-speed rail traffic in the vacuum tube, including that for freight transportation, are inefficient and practically barely realistic. Let's wait five years and ascertain it.). Having realized this, I focused on string technologies for the movement on the air, without any pipes – underground, overhead, underwater and vacuum ones. It took me 35 years to pass this way.

However, the vacuum channel remained in my other ambitious string technology – General Planetary Vehicle (GPV) for the non-rocket exploration of near-Earth space for industrial purposes. Together with the USSR Federation of cosmonautics, the Soviet Peace Fund for and the all-Union society "Knowledge", we have even organized the first International conference on non-rocket space exploration and held it in Gomel, Belarus in April 1988.

 

To implement this technology, the speed of movement of the GPV shell around the Earth, with cabins for passengers and cargo, at entering a low orbit, should be 28 thousand km/h (7.8 km/sec.) and the speed of the belt flywheel on a magnetic cushion in the vacuum channel – by 1.5–2 times higher. All the experts participating in the conference (about 500 people) came to the conclusion that this geocosmic transport technology is feasible already now, based on the existing achievements of science and technology, including the principles that are implemented in charged particle accelerators, where the speeds of light are currently obtained – 300 thousand km/sec. (or above 1 billion km/h). All this is described in detail and justified in my scientific monograph "String transport systems: on Earth and in space", written in the eighties of the last century and published, however, in a limited pressrun of only 50 copies in 1995.

Therefore, I return to your previous question – a part of string routes will be placed by 2050 in a forvacuum tube, in which special unibuses, including private (family) ones, will be able to run at a speed of 1250 km/h. And there will not be any exotics, including a magnetic cushion. The traffic will be very economical, as only 50 kW drive power will be sufficient for a hyper-speed unibus to maintain this speed. The motion will be secured by a special on-board source of energy; the consumption of energy in fuel equivalent at a speed of 1250 km/h will amount to about 0.17 liters per hundred passenger-kilometers for a six-seat family vehicle and 0.05 liter – for a public one. The interior of this hyper-car will be more spacious and comfortable than in a car, and will be equipped with a toilet cabin.

Interviewed by Alexander Solntsev