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Japanese Speedster Robot Levitates on a Cushion of Air


Researchers in Japan are trying to get a new kind of high speed train technology off the ground, and to prove they’re serious they’ve built a ground-effect robot that floats on a cushion of air. If their demo project works satisfactorily, it could set in motion a plan to build commuter trains that essentially fly inches from the ground, cutting friction and increasing overall efficiency.

Though on its face it sounds similar, this is not maglev. Ground-effect vehicles are more like extremely low flying airplanes that use stubby wings and the lift provided by the fast-moving air between its body and the ground to stay just a few inches aloft. As such, they are in some ways more complex than maglev trains--you have to manage for pitch, yaw, and roll as with an aircraft--but in other ways they are more simple.

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