Ground-effect 'plane-train' flies inches above the ground (w/ video)

May 12, 2011 by Lisa Zyga weblog
ground-effect vehicles
(Top) The robotic ground-effect vehicle is being tested by researchers at Tohoku University. (Bottom) Illustration of the Aero Train concept. Image credit: IEEE Spectrum.

(PhysOrg.com) -- By building a robotic ground-effect vehicle that flies inches above the ground, researchers from Japan may be offering a glimpse into the future of high-speed rail. The researchers, led by Yusuke Sugahara at Tohoku University, are currently testing the robotic prototype, which they have described earlier this week at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Shanghai.

As a ground-effect , the prototype uses the fast-moving air between the bottom of the vehicle and its track to fly above the ground. Usually, this air produces drag on planes as they’re landing, as well as on maglev trains, which levitate using electromagnets. But by taking advantage of this fast-moving air, the ground-effect vehicle can avoid the friction associated with rail contact, as well as avoid ground-effect drag.

With its stubby wings, the ground-effect vehicle is controlled more like a plane than a train, since factors such as pitch, roll, and yaw need to be accounted for. The researchers are testing the prototype to better understand autonomous stabilization in a ground-effect vehicle.

If the unmanned prototype works well, the researchers will develop a dynamic model of how ground-effect vehicles operate, and then use it to design and build a manned experimental prototype. Such a vehicle could travel at speeds of up to 200 kph (125 mph) around a U-shaped concrete channel.

In the future, the researchers envision building a large commuter rail system that they call the Aero Train. Ideally, such a system would be less expensive and more efficient than today’s maglev trains.

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More information: via: IEEE Spectrum

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User comments : 18

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gunslingor1
5 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
Such a vehicle could travel at speeds of up to 200 kph (125 mph) around a U-shaped concrete channel.

-Based on what I know of mag lev trains, I think that means it should go about 700mph on straight lines. But I could be wrong.

-FIX THE VIDEO!!.

-BUILD THE FLYING TRAIN!!!!! I would be happy to be the first test passenger. Get her done~! Plane travel sucks these days!!!
ryggesogn2
4 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
I can envision all sorts of spectacular crashes caused by something as simple as a rock or too much snow/ice.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
I can envision all sorts of spectacular crashes caused by something as simple as a rock or too much snow/ice.
Birds, OBL followers, suicide nuts, etc., etc., etc.. These things need a firmer hold to the ground to prevent disasters.
Deadbolt
2.3 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011
A 700mph crash would definitely be wince worthy.
that_guy
not rated yet May 12, 2011
-Based on what I know of mag lev trains, I think that means it should go about 700mph on straight lines. But I could be wrong.

I might be wrong, but I suspect that they mean that instead of being flat, the track for it has a depression in the center of it, with high walls at the side rather than the geography of the 'rail' line.

@rygg - seriously, do you hate everything on this whole site? I don't think I've ever seen you post a positive comment. I'd like to point out that snow/ice is unlikely to affect a ground affect machine. They would fly over it, and ground effect is powerful, so weight would not be a big deal - see ekranoplane.

Maglev trains have been safe if not expensive. I think this machine has a lot of potential and does away with the magnets and tracks. The main caveats I see are control, and how expensive is the propulsion. I think it would still be a good idea to have some kind of guide track tho.
mrlewish
5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
Look it's 1950's popular science magazine.
arosjoa
5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
Actually everyone its not seeing the BIG picture. A combination of actual train tech and these could make them faster and even cheaper if not more efficent. Imagine...

I could say that the japanese wanna break all their current records.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.3 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
I think that high speed rail is impossible in America due to the prevalence of WhackTard "Patriots" who would undoubtedly do their best to derail the things.

In Japan and China you don't have the same kind of mental disease as you do in America.
zevkirsh
5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
ground effect flight is crazy efficient. however it never worked for trans-oceanic transport, because ocean waves are too choppy and any moderate waves would destroy the craft.

doing this on a train line sounds like a good idea in principle, as the surface it traverses is quite flat. however, you CANNOT have a train that is unstable in any manner whatsoever, or people will call it an airplain and they will never build this thing. the 'tests' in the video make the thing look unstable and destined to be a failure. ground effect flight is in theory by far the most efficient though.

why not power this thing with a magnetic rail , like a rail gun, instead of onboard engines?
antialias
4 / 5 (2) May 13, 2011
Neat idea, but I think in practice it won't work. High speed rail (and maglev) systems can handle a degree of variability in the terrain. When this thing goes at full tilt the track would have to be almost perfectly flat with next to no incline whatsoever.

Maybe in the far future this could eb used in a transoceanic tunnel. But I don't see it working on ordinary, continental terrain other than in very few locations.

epsi00
3 / 5 (2) May 13, 2011
I think that high speed rail is impossible in America due to the prevalence of WhackTard "Patriots" who would undoubtedly do their best to derail the things.

In Japan and China you don't have the same kind of mental disease as you do in America.


while america is too busy spending billions of borrowed money on wars against poor countries to make them poorer, china and japan are conducting research into transportation of the future ( and many other things just as important ).
epsi00
5 / 5 (1) May 13, 2011
ground effect flight is crazy efficient. however it never worked for trans-oceanic transport, because ocean waves are too choppy and any moderate waves would destroy the craft.


I am pretty sure you are wrong because birds already do that over the pacific and do not seem to be bothered by the "choppiness" of the waves. read about albatross and what they can do.
hooloovoo
3 / 5 (2) May 13, 2011
@epsi00, they don't fly at 700kph. They don' have to worry about turning into red mist if they crash, unlike the passengers of a train. Also, bird have near infinitely adjustable wings and tail feathers. I don't think that's a good comparison.
NotParker
3.8 / 5 (4) May 13, 2011
I think that high speed rail is impossible in America due to the prevalence of WhackTard "Patriots" who would undoubtedly do their best to derail the things.

In Japan and China you don't have the same kind of mental disease as you do in America.


The US is the 179th densest country in the world. Japan is #38.

Even the continental US is is on 94 persons/sqkm, still ware too sparsely populated for rail to work economically.
http://en.wikiped..._density

Rail works best in densely populated countries.
Moose_Dr
not rated yet May 13, 2011
This reminds me of the "cars" in Star Wars.
that_guy
not rated yet May 13, 2011
ground effect flight is crazy efficient. however it never worked for trans-oceanic transport, because ocean waves are too choppy and any moderate waves would destroy the craft.


I am pretty sure you are wrong because birds already do that over the pacific and do not seem to be bothered by the "choppiness" of the waves. read about albatross and what they can do.


I have to agree with epsi - birds will commonly skim the surface of the ocean or other bodies of water to take advantage of the ground effect.

There's an ekranoplan called the "sea eagle" that is primarily for ocean use.
The USSR used one called the caspian sea monster in order to transport supplies quickly across the caspian.
class c ground effect craft fly up to 150m (appx 450 feet) with ground effect.

antialias, I'm pretty sure your concern is over stated or wrong. From my research, it appears that a ground effect vehicle is capable of covering at least as much ground as the highway system.
that_guy
not rated yet May 13, 2011
@epsi00, they don't fly at 700kph. They don' have to worry about turning into red mist if they crash, unlike the passengers of a train. Also, bird have near infinitely adjustable wings and tail feathers. I don't think that's a good comparison.


I think that 700 kph figure was a false extrapolation from one of the first commenters. The article says 200kph.

Epsi's point is valid - antialias said waves are too choppy for ground effect to work. Antialias's point is untrue whether a small bird, or an ekranoplan.
MrPhysOrg
not rated yet May 13, 2011
The track will be as impressive as an interstate. A maglev track for a hanging train - the 21st century version of the trains in Wuppertal - would be easier to maintain. For Americans the stations would load cars, everyone else would walk on. Americans don't have a mental disease, but they are a little "different".

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