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Passengers have stepped on board the UAE’s first high-speed electric sky pod for the first time.
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.
The National was given an exclusive tour on the pod system on Sunday.
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,” he said.
There system has enormous potential, Mr Zaretskiy said.
"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," he said.
"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.”