From flying cars to solar-powered glass pods, this London-based design and technology group is on the brink of revolutionising our transport systems.
Ricky Sandhu has an infectious curiosity that has not wavered in the 7 years since founding his design and technology group small. (Six Miles Across London). I had the pleasure of experiencing this appetite for revolutionary innovation when we met back in 2019 and between regaling stories of installing exhibits of post-consumer plastic waste, Sandhu gestured to models of “flying cars” and floating airports. Despite Sandhu’s ambitious approach, his mission has remained focused on the development of “Architecture, Urban Air Mobility, Autonomous Vehicles, Aviation, Transport, Infrastructure and Cities design” in order to both protect, and work in collaboration with, our planet.
The Launch of the Urban-Air Port: The Future of Air Mobility
In the two years since our meeting, Sandhu has planned the first pop-up for the Urban-Air Port, the world’s first airport for electric flying vehicles. The launch planned for November 2021 showcases “a one-stop-shop for drones and eVTOL (a type of aircraft that uses electric power to hover, take off, and land vertically)” (Urban-Air Port). Through the innovative architecture of a “Zero-Emission-Mobility ecosystem” (Urban-Air Port) for transporting passengers and goods, the Urban-Air Port is a model of opportunity for the future of “sustainable air mobility” (Urban-Air Port). Like with all of Sandhu’s launches, this revolutionary docking centre for autonomous, air-born transport feels almost too good to be true, but with its imminent launch in Coventry (UK) a surreal dream to reduce the necessity for traditional aeroplanes could soon become a reality.
The Floc Duo Rail System – The Uber for Rail
It has been reported that over 700,000 people left the city of London during last year, tempted by greener pastures away from the heavy air of a city on standby. Another of Sandhu’s subsidiary companies, Urban.MASS, could tempt former city dwellers back to the hustle and bustle with its development of the Floc Duo Rail System: a solar-powered transport system “that could transform mass transit for the future in cities and urban environments” (Urban.MASS). With European rail systems overrunning on average by 34%, and with “68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050,” (Urban.MASS) the demand for a new, sustainable, mode of transport is a necessity. Sandhu and his team have developed an automated rail system that “uses the existing infrastructure but does not disrupt it” (Kevin O Grady – Urban.MASS) with the necessary structures running down the centre of the roads or railways, an attempt to “compliment the traffic” (Kevin O Grady – Urban.MASS). As the pods (see imagery) run along the tracks, they are powered by solar energy from solar panels that are built into a canopy above the moving pods, which have a likeness to the spherical nature of the pods that make up the London Eye. For travel at night, each pod is equipped with a battery to store the acquired solar energy.
Environmental & Financial Advantages
The financial benefits of these state of the art autonomous pods are undeniable, the Floc Duo system is able to provide “twice the rail at half the cost” (Julie Morse, Urban.MASS). In contrast to the construction of a traditional railway connecting two airport terminals that would require two-plus years of construction, the Floc Duo Rail System would only require one year for construction.
Furthermore, the wider environmental benefits for building the structures that carry the pods are unparalleled: the Floc Duo Rail System offers a circular economy. The steel used to make the pods can be recycled, whereas the concrete currently used for other “light rail” systems is nearly impossible to deconstruct and shift.
Additional features of the system include the possibility of an on-demand service, smaller pods for fewer people (particularly relevant in the post-COVID world) and the ability to inform the passenger of the exact arrival time, combatting that all too familiar feeling of sitting in traffic nervously watching the precious minutes before your flight, or imminent appointment, slip away.
Launching The Floc Duo Rail System
In celebration of the launch of the Floc System Railway the Stockton and Darlington Railway, from which the first train set off in the UK 200 years ago, has gifted Urban.Mass the land upon which to build the first Floc demonstrator. In an effort to “connect the past with the present to inspire the innovators of the future” (Urban.MASS) the launch is scheduled for 2025 to coincide with the 200-year anniversary celebration for the Railway Museum.
Expansion of The Floc Duo Rail System
With the discovery by the World Health Organisation (Guardian) that air pollution could have a detrimental effect on each organ in the body, there is a worldwide demand for the development of carbon zero public transportation: Sandhu and his team hope to come together with governments to widely construct The Floc Duo Rail System, benefiting local communities beyond recognition.
The only question that remains is, is the world ready for autonomous pods, powered by solar and in hub electric motors, taking us from A to B? Only time will tell.
by Eliza Edwards