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27 August 2016


"Popular Mechanics" about SkyWay

The popular science journal "Popular Mechanics" published an article about the SkyWay string transport. This large article on string transport has become the key material of the entire issue. It is also included in the billboard of the September issue (in Russian) on the journal's website.

"Suffice it to look through popular science journals or websites, and you can see what it will be - transport of next generations. However, all of it is presented to us in the form of beautiful, photo-realistic images drawn on the computer. You can see much less at least a part of this possible future produced already in metal and concrete. Not to miss the chance to do this, the editors of "Popular Mechanics" travelled to Minsk, where the construction of a demonstration track section for string transport is under way".

The trip resulted in an article "Flight on strings" (in Russian), which we offer to your attention.

The popular science journal Popular Mechanics published an article about the SkyWay string transport

Translation of article

Flight on strings

Suffice it to look through popular science journals or websites, and you can see what it will be - the transport of next generations. Here we have airplanes with transparent walls, passenger boost-glide aircraft and high-speed "Maglev" vehicles in vacuum. However, all of it is presented to us in the form of beautiful, photo-realistic images drawn on the computer. You can rarely see at least a part of this possible future produced already in metal and concrete.

Not to miss the chance to do this, the editors of "Popular Mechanics" travelled to Belarus, where the construction of a demonstration track section for string transport is in full swing near Minsk. This term is probably familiar to our most loyal readers. After all, even back in 2002, when "Popular Mechanics" just began to emerge in Russian, it wrote about the test site in the town of Ozyory near Moscow, where a group of enthusiasts, led by Anatoly Yunitskiy, added steel wheels to a "ZIL" truck and made it drive on string rails stretched between supports. And who is busy with the string transport in Belarus now? It is again Anatoly Yunitskiy. "In Ozyory we have just demonstrated the principle of string transport operation, - he says. - Here the company "String technologies" headed by me is building a demonstration site for ready commercial solutions." Before our conversation, a young man of African appearance came out from Yunitskiy's office. "Are they interested, too?" we asked the leader of the SkyWay Group of Companies. "Yes, - says Anatoly, - our project attracts interest in Africa, in Australia, and in general almost everywhere with the need to transport something - cargo or passengers. People from 78 countries actively support us. And now, at the invitation of the German side we are preparing for a trade fair in Berlin."

Why are there apple trees on the construction site?

Anatoly Yunitskiy is an engineer, scientist and inventor. However, he speaks as a philosopher, preacher and evolutionary. In his string transport (and he lives with this idea almost all his adult life) he sees not just a technical discovery, but also the technology that will revolutionize our entire life. For example, Anatoly is very concerned about the fact that the asphalt roads expropriated from the world an area the size of five Great Britain's territories, and it causes huge damage to the ecology of developed countries. There is another problem of global significance. "If we don't take industries off the planet, into space, then after 2-3 generations the civilization will come to an end," says Yunitskiy. - It is impossible to organize production in space with rockets. It would take a lot of money and the abyss of time, dozens thousands of years. However, there is, for example, the idea of Tsiolkovsky-Artsutanov-Clark on building a space elevator. I also have the project of "Earth - Space - Earth" transport called "General Planetary Vehicle", and I hope that the success of my endeavors on Earth will later open the way to implementation of ideas in space."

We've heard a lot of extravagant futuristic ideas about the future, and many of them cause skepticism, especially if we take into account that the authors of the forecasts will hardly answer for possible mistakes, if they survive until the stated deadlines. However, the phenomenon of Yunitskiy is that he does not only predict and speak, but design and build. "Two years ago, - says Anatoly, - here in Minsk I was the only employee in the SkyWay Company. Now we have about two hundred people working on the staff. There are 15 design bureaus involved in the development of the track structure, infrastructure and rolling stock, there is a pilot production facility, where the ideas of the designers are embodied in metal and fiberglass, and finally, the most important thing is "EcoTechnoPark", where we are building demonstration tracks for the string transport".

Anatoly Yunitskiy has a lot of friends and supporters, but enemies are also numerous. Evil Internet trolls say that SkyWay is in fact a myth, PR, a method to collect money from credulous investors. However, what about design bureaus? The production facility? The construction of EcoTechnoPark? Is it all fiction, nothing? Built supports for string-rails? Photoshop! The shots are made at an entirely different construction site. Obviously all this is annoying Yunitskiy, but he is clearly not the man, whom the machinations of the trolls may force to give up. They take us around the Minsk office and show spacious rooms, filled with working places of designers. The monitors display mostly CAD programs, pleasant young boys and girls are behind the monitors. Then we go to the production facility, where there is intensive work, they are preparing samples of rolling stock for the trade fair in Berlin. Not everything is allowed to photograph - after all, it is the know-how. Finally, EcoTechnoPark. They tell us that less than a year ago it was a tank range overrun with weeds; the soil was plowed up with tank tracks, with deep tank trenches. Now the territory is developed, the soil is leveled, lawns are planted. Two pits, from which the ground was taken to the construction, turned into ponds already filled with carp. In addition, there is a fruit garden on several acres. Why such extravagance? Are apple trees necessary on the site? Well, firstly, it's not only a pure industrial construction but also the creation of the Park. Secondly, it is very important for Anatoly Yunitskiy to show the environmental component of the project. And, thirdly, the garden is a gesture of gratitude to the investors. The SkyWay project is actually based on "crowd-investing". Thousands of people, rich and not so rich, invest their funds into the project that, according to Yunitskiy, will cost many billions some time later. Now there are about 80,000 investors and about 500,000 people in different countries who are actively interested in the project and signed up to the company's news. Some investors got the opportunity to plant their own apple trees in the Park with their nameplates - and the garden has turned out rather big.

Let us leave the Earth in peace

And what about the construction? The scale is impressive. The building of the concrete anchor support have been erected. It will also have the functionality of a three-storey interchange hub. They have built a number of conventional supports with another anchor support at the other end (without interchange functions). Anchor supports are strong and heavy structures which have to hold string rails at 1,000-ton tension; the function of conventional supports is just to hold the track. When the string-rail overpass with delicate trusses for extra strength is laid here, suspended and mounted trailers will pass along two pairs of "strings". This is the prototype of the future high-speed route. The first track will have the length of 1 km (the distance between two built anchor supports); in the future, the track will be extended by 15 km and "unibuses" (UniBus is the brand name of self-propelled passenger cars) will be able to achieve the rated speed of 500 km/h already on the demonstration section. They are also installing supports for the urban monorail option. "Unicars" and "unibikes" will run on the string-monorail, suspended to L-shaped supports. Unibikes are hybrid vehicles, driven both by an electric motor and muscular power of man, the cabin has bicycle pedals with an electric generator. A freight track is being elevated on metal supports; they will test the cargo transport modules "untrucks" here. Excavation and concreting works are expensive, and it is easy to notice that big funds have already been invested in this project. No matter what ill-wishers say, Anatoly Yunitskiy does not need to use Photoshop. Construction site is a reinforced concrete reality!

Let us recall briefly the essence of Yunitskiy's technologies. In principle, it all seems similar to a railroad, but there is an important distinction. Conventional rails cannot be laid directly on the ground. The gradient of a railroad should not exceed a certain value, otherwise the train will begin to slip. Therefore, the laying of a railroad is preceded usually by a large amount of expensive excavation work. They add embankments, dig ditch cuts, lay a bed of sand and gravel ballast for future sleepers. A railway bursts savagely into natural landscapes, becomes a dam stopping water flows, brings about waterlogging, withdraws large areas of land from people and nature. SkyWay transport will run on the rails, too, but these rails will be elevated on supports, leaving everything that is below - meadows, woods and ponds - intact and safe. It is significantly less costly to install supports at 40-50 meters span than to lay a solid road for trains or vehicles.

Park where future is prepared

A tank range was before on the present construction site. Now the territory is developed, a garden is planted by the investors; there are even two ponds with carp. The main objective of EcoTechnoPark is to demonstrate the possibilities of string transport in high-speed, urban and freight options. At present anchor supports for the high-speed section are erected, the office building and tracks for urban and freight transport are under construction.

Why the tower does not fall

Now about the rail-strings. A traditional flyover or a beam bridge are built with separate split fragments. Such a fragment resting on supports with its ends is subject to a bending moment, i.e. it sags down. The top material of the beam has compression, at the bottom it has stretching. If the bridge is incorrectly calculated, the beam will break under its own weight or under the weight of a load. To avoid breaking of a long bridge span, bridge designers came up with various ideas to support the beam for a long period. They strengthened it with trusses, added an arch under it, hung it with guy cables to a pylon or chains, etc. However, Anatoly Yunitskiy has long been interested in the properties of pre-stressed structures. There is the Ostankino tower in Moscow, assembled with concrete rings. Why doesn't it fall? The thing is that steel cables passing through the whole building pull it to the ground. Even when the tower caught fire, and several of the cables broke, the tower remained standing. This means the design is very reliable. If an overpass is made continuous (on a large span from one anchor support to the other) and pre-stressed with stretching, the effect of the bending moment will be minimized. Experiments and calculations prove that such overpass will be 5 times more rigid and 3 times stronger than a traditional bridge. Therefore, rail-strings can be lightweight, which will save metal compared with the structures made by traditional technologies and, in addition, keep perfectly the weight of a load. There are several options of the string rail designed in SkyWay, but the basic version looks like this. A bunch of steel wires pre-stressed by stretching is placed inside a metal housing; the remaining space is filled with special concrete (particularly for noise reduction). A railhead of strong steel is mounted on top of the housing. The engine for "unibuses" and other types of string transport will be a cylindrical steel wheel having a small contact spot with the rail. In principle, the motor and the power source for a "unibus" can be anything - from an electric motor to a gas turbine, but the steel wheel will be always present. Anatoly Yunitskiy is skeptical to magnetic cushion trains: "It is a very expensive system with an immense cost per kilometer and the efficiency factor of a modern steam locomotive (about 15%). Not by chance, there is only one commercially operated Maglev line in the world connecting Shanghai to the airport. Even Elon Musk with his Hyperloop seems to tend now to use a steel wheel. Moreover, the main problem in our system is not rolling friction but frontal resistance. That's why we carefully studied the aerodynamics of our carriages. Blowing-down in a wind tunnel showed a phenomenal result - 10 times better than sports cars. However, sports cars have a screen effect due to the small distance from the ground. To avoid flying up a sports car should be pressed down by using a spoiler, and this increases the rolling friction and demands a more powerful engine. "Unibuses" will run high above the ground and we shall not have a screen effect. Therefore, our transport does not need powerful engines."

When there will be no traffic cops

According to Yunitskiy, a smooth and stable track and high aerodynamic features will allow the passenger carriages to reach the speed of up to 500 km/h and up to 600 km/h in future that will make SkyWay a competitor not only to trains, but also to airplanes. Though a modern airliner flies faster, however, we spend many more hours on the trip to the airport and from it. The replacement of long-distance public transportation by the strings trains is not the ultimate dream of the inventor. He believes that eventually his brainchild will "kill" individual cars, too. "This idea may seem paradoxical, - says Yunitskiy. - How can the car giving us freedom of movement be replaced by a transport tied to the rails? However, it is not the car, but the road network that gives us the freedom of movement. How far shall we get in a usual small car after turning off the highway into a wood or a field? Asphalt roads will go into the past, but they will be replaced with a network of string routes of the same density. It will be enough to board your own individual capsule, specify your destination to the onboard computer, and it will get you there without traffic jams and collisions."

So far, it is hard to imagine what life will be like when we all pass over to travelling on the strings. For example, it is difficult to imagine a string line extending to every building in such a huge city as Moscow. However, perhaps, this new transport, which will be more eco-friendly, safe and "smart" will dictate to us more reasonable formats in the arrangement of the urban life - green and pedestrian linear cities. I definitely want to believe in something like that.

© 1977—2016 Anatoly Yunitskiy. All Rights Reserved.