On 23 October, there was held the annual presentation of the string technologies the EcoFest-2020, which this year, took place for the first time in online format. Every year, Anatoli Unitsky, inventor of the string technologies, speaks to investors of the project at the EcoFest, reporting about the results of the company’s work and the nearest development plans.
We have prepared for you a shortened version of Anatoli Unitsky’s speech, where we highlighted the main events of the project over the past year:
The year 2020 reminded man and humanity of personal and civilisational vulnerability. We have faced viruses, natural disasters and global political turmoil. But despite the coronavirus epidemic, we have not stopped work for a day either in Belarus, where the design organisation, production and the Testing Centre are located, or in the United Arab Emirates, at the construction of the SkyWay Innovation Centre.
What has been done this year at the Technology Demonstration and Certification Centre in Belarus?
We have upgraded the rolling surface of the SkyWay truss flyover: there now is installed a flat belt type rail head.
The solutions developed made it possible to eliminate transverse welds along the entire length of the rolling surface on the heavy track. That will make traffic smoother and reduce noise levels, whichs results in a feeling of comfortable travelling at high speeds.
That also allows for more reliable operation of the anti-derailment system, and the experimental coverage of the raceway will make the track structure more durable.
As a result, we have achieved indicators for smooth running the of rolling stock higher than in business class cars. Whereas in the past we used the hydraulic system in the SkyWay vehicles to reduce unevenness in the track, now, with the use of the new technology, smooth running performance has improved by several times. Today, the Unibus U4-212-01’s traction trolley is already being tested on the track.
We also continue to test the innovative current collector on the heavy track: not from the contact wire, but from the left and right rails through the wheels.
We have upgraded the flexible sagging track, which is one of the first tracks at the EcoTechnoPark.
The flexible track started its operation in 2016. On the track, we have replaced the flexible saddles on the supports: now they are made like a flexible «rod» with gradual reductions of stiffness to the edges. That has not only improved the smoothness of travel, but also made it possible to go through the supports without reducing speed.
The analysis of the strings, which were purchased at a lower price, showed that without zinc coating, even in a protective environment, they will not last 100 years. That is why we do not use strings without zinc coating in any project, including the test tracks.
We designed and started building the 6th heavy track in the form of the welded truss.
In the course of the work, it turned out that the welded truss would not endure 100 million load cycles under European standards, which means that it would not last 100 years. Welding holds static loads well, e.g. temperature forces that reach maximums and minimums twice a year, i.e. in winter and summer. Conventional building structures will therefore only experience a few hundred critical load cycles in 100 years of operation.
In SkyWay, the load is given by each passage of the wheel and vehicle with an interval of several seconds, so there will be millions of loading cycles per year. Welding does not hold this load and «is quickly tired«, especially in the stretching zone, and its strength drops by more than 10 times.
We stopped the construction and redesigned the flyover, replacing the welding with high-strength bolts. As a result, we had to change the undercarriage and anti-derailment transport systems, as well as to stop the supply of steel structures and renegotiate contracts with other foreign suppliers and manufacturers.
At the same time, the design loads of the anchor supports already built increased by 200 tonnes and had to be reinforced. However, we now know how we can upgrade and strengthen not only the track structure already built, but also the anchor supports.
The changes introduced did not result in the increase in construction costs. Moreover, it has become not only more durable, but also more technologically advanced: the flyover can be built in any weather, and its cost is at least 1 million dollars less per kilometre.
The works on the Unilight and the super lighweight track structure, continued
Now, all we have to do is to bring the track structure to the site, uncoil it from the reel, stretch it, lift it up, and the rail and string structure is ready. The track will be 1125 metres long.
All the supports have already been installed: 2 anchor ones and 4 intermediate supports. One of them is 5-degree turntable for working out turns without the anchor support.
The 8-seat Unilight electric vehicle has the simplest design like a self-propelled horizontal lift cabin. The travel time is approximately 2 minutes. The Unilight is a full-fledged electric vehicle with the automated control system; the vehicle is economical, environmentally friendly, safe and easy to use.
We plan to start Unilight’s testing on the farm near the EcoTechnoPark within six months. On this pilot track, it will be possible to eliminate deficiencies and make all necessary improvements, certify the Unilight complex and put it into mass production for the tourist sector of cargo and passenger transportation.
We started the construction of the 7th test line at the EcoTechnoPark in Maryina Gorka (the foundation of the first anchor support has begun to be filled in).
We are building the test tracks in the Emirates in the tropical design for the Middle East market. Before delivering the rolling stock to this region, the vehicles must pass factory tests and and run up the mileage – these are the requirements for any transport. Since we have a production facility for Unibuses in Minsk, each mode of transport in Belarus as well must be run-in, which requires a test truck.
Currently, most orders are received for high-performance projects – cargo and passenger ones, and they require spacious and heavy vehicles weighing about 50 tons, which could transport 40-foot sea containers weighing up to 35 tons, or take on board 200-250 passengers.
Earlier, when we started working in Belarus in 2015, we were focused on lighter vehicles: as we thought then, they would be more demanded by the market. The test tracks already built in Maryina Gorka will not be able to bear the heavy load, so we need new tracks for testing. In the spring of next year, we will demonstrate a brand new heavy class rolling stock.
In the course of design, experimentation, research and testing, we have obtained new data and results that could not be obtained theoretically in 2015 during the construction of the EcoTechnoPark. Only in 2020, it become clear that some of the standards adopted earlier should be changed to more optimal ones. For example, it was the case with the track in the SkyWay suspended and mounted double-rail transport.
Thanks to these works, we will not have to change the SkyWay track on the commercial lines in the future.
Testing, certification and further development of the new rolling stock models will take place on tracks 6, 7 and 8 under construction at the EcoTechnoPark, as well as on two test tracks in tropical design in the UAE.
We have designed and are currently manufacturing two new SkyWay electric vehicles.
This is the 25-seat passenger Unibus, which can be assembled into a train with a capacity of 200 passengers; and a cargo Unibus, weighing 50 tons and with a 35-ton carrying capacity, which can transport 40-foot containers.
They have the automated control system and can be manufactured in both tropical and northern versions. The estimated travel speed is 150 km/h
This and subsequent SkyWay electric rail vehicles have the improved suspension, upgraded anti-derailment system and automatic wheel turning system, which will allow each wheel to move on the centre of the rail head, creating less noise.
We have fully completed the implementation of the conveyor-type cargo line.
Safety shelters (canopies) are installed over the Unitrans’ working line today. The installation of the upgraded unloading device for the Unitruck has been completed at the loading terminal. The cargo transport complex at the EcoTechnoPark has been completed with all the necessary elements.
The complex includes two main sub-systems: the Unitrans and Unitruck. It is a working example of the universal system with the possibility of modular configuration. The SkyWay freight transport can be adapted to almost any conditions and needs related to the transportation of various goods.
A new workshop with the modernized machine-assembly section has been put into operation on the territory of the Design and Engineering Bureau.
The new workshop has a total area of approximately 1200 m². It has a crane girder with a lifting capacity of 10 tons and a warehouse with separate gates. The existing assembly area has been transferred to the workshop, where the new machining equipment has been installed.
This site allowed us to quickly adapt to small-scale production of metal structures, rolling stock and components to support projects in the middle East region, primarily in the UAE.
For this purpose, our production is equipped with the most modern machine park: in this configuration, we are the only company in Belarus with such machine-building capabilities.
We constantly monitor the condition of the rolling stock, transport infrastructure and building structures on all test tracks.
We get experimental data on rail wear, flatness and deformability of the track; noise, durability of protective and corrosion-resistant coatings, and a lot of other valuable information.
Without this knowledge, obtained in practice, and not in the office, it is impossible to create a quality product for the market.
We continue to build the SkyWay Innovation Centre in Sharjah.
We will soon complete the first phase of the development and put into operation not only the first track with the suspended double-rail flyover, but also all the necessary infrastructure: stations, depots, the automated control system and engineering networks.
Sheikh of Sharjah is a scientist, he defended 2 Doctoral Theses, and it was his decision to allocate us 28 hectares of the land on the facade of the Technopark and allowed us to build the wooden house, although the country’s legislation prohibits such construction.
All the supports for the cargo and 2.5-km passenger track 2 have already been delivered to the SkyWay Innovation Centre for testing, certification and demonstration of the cargo and passenger complex for the heavy rolling stock, which we are already manufacturing in Minsk. The motion on the track will be both mounted and suspended, that is why the 48-metres standard spans are used here. Last year, we sent the tropical Unicar to the SkyWay Innovation Centre in Sharjah.
For testing individual components and assemblies, we have built a special laboratory complex in Maryina Gorka.
At present, there are ongoing tests of our various rails, wheels designs; current collector for wear, noise and durability at this complex. Some of the spaces there are reinforced with armor protection, as, for example, at a speed of more than 500 kilometres per hour, when the test wheel is destroyed, fragments can fly several hundred metres.
In October last year, the first track structure was put into operation at the SkyWay Centre in Sharjah.
At the Testing Centre, we welcomed His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Union Council of the United Arab Emirates, ruler of Sharjah. His visit to the SkyWay Innovation Centre was covered by the leading Arab media.
In the Innovation Centre, we started the construction of a new cargo and passenger complex with large 288-meters spans.
This test section can be considered as the first implementation stage of the targeted project for the realization of the sea container cargo project.
The length of the track will be about 100 km and its 30 km will be in the mountains. Like the cargo and passenger track, it will be mounted on high-strength bolts and designed for 100 years of service life.
At present, we have developed and produced twelve fundamentally different types of transport.
At the end of this year, there are being prepared for implementation the 25-seat passenger Unibus in the suspended design, and the Unicont for transporting sea containers up to 40 feet long and weighing up to 35 tons. At the end of 2020, we will have a whole range of the rolling stock consisting of 14 models, with the last two models in tropical design for the targeted projects in the middle East.
We continue to improve the safety of the SkyWay rolling stock.
Today, the transport is equipped with dozens of sensors. The intelligent system that eliminates the human factor easily navigates within the surrounding space, adapting the rout task to the situation.
The safety is also enhanced by the anti-derailment system and by the fact that the transport is on the second level above the ground. This is not the case, for example, in automobile transport, that is why it is the most dangerous invention of man. The car kills about 1.5 million people every year and injures more than 10 million people, making them disabled and crippled.
Over the past year, we have increased the number of engineers in the project up to 1000 people.
We have purchased a new office complex in Minsk. At present, our employees are working on the nine floors of the modern building with a total area of about 10 thousand square meters. That helps to optimize business processes and accelerates the pace of the Skyway transport practical implementation. In total, over the past few years, we have saved about one million dollars on proper use of office space alone.
This year, we have moved away from paperwork, introducing the electronic system «1C: Enterprise» in the work of all company divisions. By improving office management, our developers have created fully automated work places.
We have reduced our time and costs by using digital modelling based on the 3DExperience platform, in which both the designer and the design engineer can prove themselves. Currently, we have more than a thousand computers, so every new employee immediately sits down at their workplace equipped with the latest technology.
The students of the Ural Federal University and Nizhny Novgorod State University of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering have been writing theses and master's theses on the SkyWay related topics for the third year in a row. These works show that young scientists support the ideas of the string transport.
Recently, the reception of final qualifying works on the topic of the string transport and string technologies has been completed at Unitsky String Technologies Co. The author of the most interesting work will be granted the right to apply for a job at the engineering company Unitsky String Technologies Co..
In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about our plans for the future.
Firstly, by the middle of the 21st century, we intend to take the environmentally dangerous part of the Earth’s industry to near space. If this is not done, our grandchildren will have no future.
Secondly, we plan to create the TransNet network of about 25 million kilometres of the second-level roads in the 21st century.
In order to move towards this goal, next year, we should complete the testing tracks in Belarus and in the United Arab Emirates and sign at least 3 contracts for cargo and urban targeted projects; we will have the tested and certified technology in the form required by the market, including in the tropical design. We planned to do much of that in 2020, but this year circumstances disrupted our plans.
As for the SkyWay high-speed systems, approvals for the allotment of the 21-km land plot in Belarus are currently at the final stage.
We are confident in our success. Our confidence is only growing. We see with our own eyes how what seemed like a fantasy yesterday is becoming a reality.
The development of the technology continues. By adopting the best that has been done before us and learning from the mistakes of others, we are creating the safest, most economical and reliable transport system that has ever existed.
Scientific and technological progress is endless. SkyWay will become a real unifying force for all humanity, which has no future without unity.