Vehicle levitates without magnets

Now this is interesting, its a report from New Scientist (here) today.

The vehicle was created by Yusuke Sugahara and colleagues at Tohoku University in Miyagi, Japan, attempts to fly as low to the ground as possible.

Existing levitating trains try to minimise drag by using magnets, which reduce friction between the rail and cars. However the new design exploits air resistance – thanks to a phenomenon called ground effect – and hovers without the need for magnets.

Due to the effect, when an airplane flies very low, it creates a cushion of high-pressure air. The plane’s speed and lift also increase because the ground prevents drag-causing downwash and wing vortices from forming.

Despite its low-flying design, the vehicle must still be controlled around three axes – pitch, roll, and yaw – just like an airplane. Sugahara and his team are using their prototype to test a control system that can manage these axes of rotation autonomously. If successful, they hope to scale up the design to accommodate a human passenger. The idea could eventually be used to create high-speed trains that could travel at 200 kilometres per hour and levitate without magnets.

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