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Japanese Ground-Flying Plane Project Hopes to Compete With MagLev Trains

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Of course flying is the ultimate means of transportation and of course the wheel seems a bit outdated if you look at the airplane. Nevertheless, flying automobiles or trains would kick the transportation industry and change the way we move, just like this experimental prototype, that is half airplane and half train.

Created by Yusuke Sugahara and his colleagues from Tohoky University in Miyagi, Japan, the vehicle uses a phenomenon called ground effect, which exploits the air resistance.

Trains working on Maglev technology are already using magnetic fields to reduce friction between them and the track, but this one looks more like an “Ekranoplan” – a Russian invention that has been tested during the Cold War and that could do as much as 460 mph floating 60 feet above water.

Sugahara’s train, on the other hand, creates a cushion of high-pressure air when it flies very low. It can be controlled just like a normal airplane, around three axes – pitch, roll and yaw. The team is now conceiving control software and hardware that can control these three axes and keep the plane aloft without any external intervention.

A prototype that could transport a human passenger is envisioned, but I guess that’s merely in the dream phase.

Of course, the flying train Sugahara and his team develop would probably use batteries or fuel cells, since the vehicle is not only made for speeds up to 200 km/h, but also for having green kudos by saving more energy than the Maglev.

Watch the team’s efforts to stabilize the plane in the video below:

[via newscientist]

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