Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has invested an undisclosed amount of funds in futuristic startup called skyTran, a pathbreaking transportation company which is cofounded by Indian engineer Ankur Bhatnagar. Developed at NASA Ames Research Center, Skytran is a high-speed magnetically levitated personal transport system that works in dense urban areas.
Ankur Bhatnagar, a engineering graduate from IIT-Roorkee and an MTech from IIT-Kanpur is the sole Indian co-founder of skyTran and he leads skyTran’s Indian initiatives as VP of SkyTran India.
SkyTran has developed a “third-generation” Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) technology which hopes to change the face of public transport across the world. Bhatnagar expects it to be operational in India in the next two years and hopes India will emerge as its biggest market. He said skyTran can transport passengers above surface traffic cutting the journey between Mulund and Colaba in Mumbai or Bengaluru airport to Electronic City in 25 minutes.
Touted as world’s most advanced surface transport technology, SkyTran has developed this technology in collaboration with NASA. SkyTran quadruples the average speed of travel while improving convenience and cutting down costs, energy requirements, environmental impact and pollution.
SkyTran is currently in negotiations with the Indian government and plans on introducing the service in parts of Jaipur, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Kerala.
SkyTran has designed a system of high-speed commuter pods that it claims can provide a safer, greener, quieter alternative to traditional forms of public transit. These pods would rise above the inconvenience of everyday traffic, on elevated guide rails. The pods weigh around 300 pounds and rely on the lift and thrust of electromagnets to levitate and move them forward.
The computer-controlled pods can be summoned on demand to meet commuters at the nearest station. SkyTran uses a variation on magnetic levitation technology. China’s Shanhai Maglev train is currently the world’s fastest, able to hit 311 mph with a top operating speed of 268 mph.
SkyTran CEO Jerry Sanders with a model pod
Traditional PRT or people mover system system make use of wheels for motion where wheel maintenance is a major operational cost as wheels are subject to constant friction, wear, and periodic failure. Furthermore, the use of wheels limits the safe maximum speed and, therefore, the range of the vehicles is limited to local areas. skyTran addresses this problem by using magnetic levitation (maglev) instead of wheels.
skyTran has successfully demonstrated that its unique passive magnetic levitation systems can be commercially deployed. In skyTran’s maglev system there is no physical contact between the vehicle and the guideway so there is nothing to wear out or fail. When combined with a tested and proven high performance linear synchronous motor, skyTran’s maglev system makes safe, reliable high speed travel possible at up to 150 mph (240 kph). This rapid transporting allows for large local, regional, and national networks to be built.
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