Investors back high-altitude supersonic air travel

Signal of change / Investors back high-altitude supersonic air travel

By Anna Simpson / 13 Feb 2015

In 2013, Elon Musk (the billionaire behind Tesla Motors) published a white paper proposing high-altitude supersonic air travel between cities about 1500km apart. Now, reports Forbes, several companies are making it real.


Hyperloop Technologies Inc is one, aiming to "make the world smaller, cleaner and more efficient" by moving people and cargo "at speeds never thought possible". Based in Los Angeles, it is backed by investors Formation 8, Sherpa Ventures, Zhen Capital and David O. Sacks.  


Its technologists are developing a high-speed cargo pod, known as the Hyperloop, which features a giant compressor fan that transfers huge volumes of air away from the nose. It carries a cargo capsule large enough to hold a standard 40-foot intermodal container. The capsule travels in a near-vacuum to reduce drag, and Hyperloop claims, should in theory accelerate from zero to 750mph (roughly 1200 km/h) in less than a minute. It then travels along a magnetic river between two (urban) points propelled by linear induction motors - rather like those currently used in Tokyo's subway. 


At the Texas Transportation Forum in January 2015, Musk announced the creation of a Hyperloop test track, but did not give a date. 


Signal spotted by Anna Simpson

Image: Hyperloop design / Tesla 

So what?

Could the creation of a hyperloop be the fifth mode of transport to change the world - following boat, rail, road and air? A supersonic alternative that bypasses the problems of pollution and congestion could transform exchange between global megacities and unlock a new future for cargo. But the challenges are enormous; Forbes lists earthquake-proofing, rights of way, and "the barf factor that comes with flying through a tube a transonic speeds". 



What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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