Flying train unveiled by Japanese scientists

Flying train unveiled by Japanese scientists

Train or plane? While semanticists debate, we're going to look at this cool piece of kit just revealed by Tohoku University

Could this be the way we commute decades down the line?

Japanese scientists from Tohoku University shone light on what could possibly be the future of high-speed trains with the invention of a levitating, robotic plane-train.

The scale model was unveiled at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Shanghai recently.

The train is basically a plane, with wings, propellers and fins to help the vehicle levitate on cushions of air, centimeters above the ground.

The train will travel along a U-shaped concrete channel that will prevent it from taking off altogether.

The video clip above shows footage of the somewhat wobbly model traveling down a runway.

According to tech publication IEEE Spectrum, the hovercraft can travel at up to 200 kilometers per hour.

It’s not the first train to travel without a rail (Maglev comes to mind), nor is it faster than other trains (Shanghai's Maglev train travels at 580 kilometers per hour). But some consider the plane-train to be a breakthrough in terms of efficiency and cost.

Maglev trains go fast without the friction that running on rails create, but wind drag between the bottom of the train and its track makes them less efficient.

The plane-train uses the fast-moving air underneath the craft for propulsion. This potentially makes the new technology less costly than Maglev trains.

Although the technology is still in its teething stages, Tohoku University researchers hope to build a real commuter train called the Aero Train using the same technology in the future.