Results of the first extensive study into a hyperloop service to speed commuters around the country in minutes are due in weeks and could represent a watershed moment for the future of the revolutionary transport technology in the UAE.
Developing science in the world of electro-magnetic transport has fast evolved into an arms race as rival companies race to become the first to launch a safe and reliable revolutionary mode of passenger transport.
If the UAE study is approved and government permits granted, those at Hyperloop Transportation Technologies are confident of turning science fiction into reality within four years, with Al Ain to Abu Dhabi the most likely first transit line in the UAE.
“Our model is super cheap, and super-efficient and also super safe,” said Bibop Gresta, chairman and co-founder of HTT, who started life as a programmer and became head of his first company at 15.
“I don’t see the Hyperloop concept as a race or a war as many have described it, we have answered the call to actually build this technology and develop a project that will recoup any investment.
“Most of these other projects are very expensive and not capable of making any money.”
Small capsules that can deliver more people to more points is the model, with upto seven capsules each with 30-50 people, depending on the design profile, in just one near-vaccum tube.
It will be able to deliver 3,400 people an hour, that’s 128,000 a day, or 24 million people a year in just one tube.
“Instead of encouraging people to invest their money, we have offered a new approach, exchanging expertise and ideas in exchange for shares,” Mr Gresta said.
“We had many scientists register an interest to get involved and contribute, people from NASA, MIT, Stanford and Space X, the best minds on the planet.”
Capsules speeding at 1,200 km per hour will take passengers from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain within 8-12 minutes. Further lines could be developed at a later stage between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and also Riyadh.
More than 200 scientists have been working for HTT to improve safety and efficiency in exchange for stock options in the company.
HTT has an agreement with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which grants the company an exclusive license to use the laboratory's passive magnetic levitation technology.
Experts from HTT have been working with more than 70 stakeholders in the UAE over the past year to assess the viability of opening a route in the country.
“The UAE and Abu Dhabi is the first place to complete a full scale feasibility study into the technology we are using,” said Mr Gresta, who helped develop more than 70 start-up companies, after several years working in the Italian music industry.
“We were sure of the technology, but the challenge has been about sustainability and the financial models associated with the project.
“These results will be published in two weeks. Then we can discuss phase two to bring this to the region very soon, maybe within four years once the permits have been granted.”
The study agreement details a multi-phase rollout that includes route analysis, cost estimates and a development schedule.
Once these analyses are successfully completed, the Department of Municipal Affairs and Transport and HTT will discuss further steps.
A full-scale construction of a commercial prototype with real functioning capsules that have been developed in Spain will be tested in Toulouse in May.
Project developers claim HTT offers more options than a highway as it is cost effective and can use a combination with renewable energy, kinetic energy and geothermal to provide 30 per cent more energy than it consumes.
“Potentially it is a system that would quickly recoup any initial investment and then generate money,” said Mr Gresta.
“We are at an advanced stage of anyone else, and working in a real project to make this a commercial possibility.”