Sharjah is travelling into the future with skypods

The system’s ‘urban light’ track can carry pods of up to 14 passengers at speeds of 150kph, while larger carriages transport passengers in either 48 or 75 capacity pods at 500kmph

By Hussain Al Mahmoudi

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Published: Thu 1 Sep 2022, 11:37 PM

Last updated: Fri 2 Sep 2022, 3:50 PM

In most parts of the world, transportation remains a highly polluting sector, the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions such as CO₂. It is estimated that each year nearly 7 million people die due to excessive exposure to pollution-fueled fine particles in the air. The bulk of these particles are released by conventional transportation systems.

Over the years, emissions have created havoc with Earth, bringing it to the brink of disaster in the form of climate change, as witnessed in the alarming rising temperatures across the globe. The summer of 2022 has been particularly harsh, an eye-opener and a harbinger of worse things to come, if the world does not double up efforts to reduce emissions.

Across the globe, both at the government and entrepreneurial levels, great innovations are being developed, using unique technologies that will gradually see the world adopting greener transportation systems. It is heartening to see that technology parks are encouraging scientists, innovators and techies to put their heads together to create smarter non-polluting transportation systems.

Sharjah is blazing a new trail in this field. The Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP), a vibrant incubation hub for new-age innovators, is developing hi-tech, hi-speed hanging skypods that can carry people and freight at speeds of between 150kmph and 500kmph, thanks to new innovations developed inhouse at the technology park.

A Belarusian startup, in partnership with SRTIP, has already constructed hanging test tracks that will be able to carry cargo and passengers. The testing of the ‘unicars’ is being conducted on a 2km stretch within the park. After successful testing, the government will announce construction of its routes within Sharjah city.

This will be the UAE’s first high-speed electric skypod network. The startup has already built a 2km suspended track that will allow pods hanging on a super-strong string rail to travel at high speeds once a full-length line is opened.

Besides being pollution-free, the system offers many other benefits. It consumes much less energy than cars. It is a power-saving solution, with an electrical motor that can be operated partly by solar or wind energy. By taking the pods aerial, land is preserved for green open spaces and for developing retail and residential real estate. The system is also highly cost-effective. Compared to the cost of constructing a metro system, the hanging rail is far more economical and space-saving.

The system’s ‘urban light’ track can carry pods of up to 14 passengers at speeds of 150kph, while larger carriages transport passengers in either 48 or 75 capacity pods at 500kmph. Also, it is also considerably cheaper to build and operate than a magnetic levitation system, such as a hyperloop or a monorail.

Sharjah's engagement with smart transportation innovators does not end there. The technology park is thinking years ahead, as it single-mindedly chases its mission of creating a better world for future generations, by incentivizing innovators with great ideas.

Just a few months ago, SRTIP entered into an agreement with Lightyear, the Dutch startup that has launched the world's first long-range production-ready solar electric vehicle. One of the outcomes of the far-reaching deal will be the opening of testing facilities and a sales office at the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park), the first such facility outside the Netherlands.

Sharjah will soon witness hectic activity as far as the revolutionary electric car is concerned in the months to come. The two parties will collaborate on a range of activities, including setting up testing facilities and sales and service partnerships across the region.

In addition, Lightyear and SRTI Park will boost university research exchange programs on solar-powered EVs, and work on policy initiatives to support governments in creating incentives for electric vehicles, including solar-extended EVs.

In SRTI Park’s role as a key technology incubator, the partnership will also enable fundraising for the development and production of future Lightyear models and could pave the way for local manufacturing in Sharjah in the future, utilizing advanced research of the leading universities in the emirate.

The park is also home to another green startup, a digital innovation company in the micro-mobility space. The solution is a digital physical platform that integrates global innovations in urban and personal mobility with light electric vehicles (LEVs) like e-scooters, e-bikes, customer experiences and transit data analytics.

The vibrant ecosystem in Sharjah is primed to tap the ideas of the world’s innovators and turn them into green practical solutions. The adoption of these emerging technologies is bound to have a far-reaching impact on modern living, contributing greatly to the goal of reducing emissions and combating climate change globally, for the good of the planet and the benefit of future generations.

Hussain Al Mahmoudi is the CEO of Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park.

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