SHARJAH (UAE) -- A small four-seat pod hovers above Sharjah's test track. This futuristic transit solution was promoted by a Belarusian company that hopes to secure future contracts.
uSky invited journalists to view their test track on Thursday. They described it as an energy-efficient and smart solution to fly over traffic in the Emirates. This country is home to Dubai's skyscraper-laden towers, which has long been open to anything futuristic.
However, uSky is linked to a Belarusian investment company called SkyWay. This has seen several countries in Europe issue warnings to investors about "may be in a scam." Several nations have also rejected proposals to deploy the technology.
Anatoli Unitsky, the creator of The Associated Press, brushed aside any questions regarding the project's funding. SkyWay did not fund the project, he said. Anatoli Unitsky also called them "my fans", as he wore the logo of the investment firm on his lapel.
Unitsky stated, "It's transparent here."
A Dubai-based public relations company responded to questions later on behalf of uSky. They said that "noone associated with uSky... have any legal or financial relationships with SkyWay Capital and SkyWay Group." But, they also acknowledged that uSky was known as SkyWay before "inappropriate persons... misused the SkyWay brand and compromised it without our consent."
Thursday's uSky project saw journalists travel 400 meters (1300 feet) along a straight-line suspended track at Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park. Although the pod was moving at a speed of nearly 50 kph (30mph), an engineer suggested that a longer track would increase the speed by as much as threefold. As the pod races between poles, the line above it stays still.
A second track, longer in length, was being constructed nearby. The company stated that the current test facility is powered by electricity from the grid. However, it will be powered by electric batteries that are recharged from renewable energy sources. The line runs along a string railway, according to the company.
Instead, a brief presentation was made to journalists. It seemed geared towards deep-pocketed investors. The presentation covered projects from $230 million up to $580 million. This seems to be the goal of uSky.
It has already offered a tender for the contract to Dubai's Road and Transportation Authority. This authority wants to transform Dubai, a city famous for its multi-lane highways, into a future with driverless vehicles and mass transit carriers. But the flying taxis that were promised many years ago are yet to fly.
Unitsky has not yet been able to land a major project in India for its string rail pods. A project that was proposed in India's Punjabi province received criticism and seems to have been abandoned. Another project in Indonesia was also criticised by angry investors.
SkyWay has been in question for a long time. It prominently promotes Unitsky's string-rail technology and Unitsky. Italian regulators barred SkyWay, as well as a few subsidiaries, from selling shares to public in 2019. New Zealand regulators in 2019 barred SkyWay and a number of subsidiaries from selling shares to the public. Officials in Lithuania told the public:
Al-Mahmoudi described uSky, a tenant who paid rent at the park but had not received funding from Sharjah (one of the seven sheikhdoms making up the United Arab Emirates). However, the uSky facility prominently displayed a photo of Sharjah ruler Sheikh Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi riding in one of its pods.
Al-Mahmoudi stated that these are "alliances." "We believe that all types of startups and all kinds companies are guilty of all sorts of allegations."
He said, "Let's remember this is a startup ....When your startup phase begins, you will experience a lot more difficulties."
Al-Mahmoudi made these remarks just moments after telling journalists that there was no better technology or project than the uSky Project.
Unitsky spoke to the AP via a translator and said that the project was funded by unidentified "investment funds", not individuals. He said that he was not involved in the project's finances. However, the Dubai-based public relations firm said later that Dr. Anatoli Utsky and private investment funds had partially backed the project.
Unitsky stated that SkyWay doesn't finance us. SkyWay is an engineer fan. There are millions of people who love me all over the world.