Air Force builds rocket-powered maglev sled capable of traveling at speeds up to 633 mph

The U.S. Air Force is the reigning champion when it comes to the world’s fastest maglev vehicles. A team from the 846th Test Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico set a new world record with a 513 mph run on March 4. They then broke that record again two days later with an even faster run of 633 mph.

“Today was the fastest test we’ve ever done with the maglev,” said Lt. Col. Shawn Morgenstern, the Commander of the 846th TS. “We went 633 miles per hour. Wednesday, we went 513 miles per hour, and prior to that, we went 510 — which was a couple years ago.”

Maglev technology uses magnetism to levitate vehicles, allowing them to move without touching the ground or another surface. This form of transportation is frictionless, making it possible for  vehicles to move at very high speeds. The Shanghai Maglev Train is the fastest commercial maglev train and connects the Shanghai Pudong International Airport with other outlying parts of Shanghai. More commonly known as the Transrapid, the train is capable of transporting passengers at speeds up to 270 mph.

The Air Force’s maglev sled uses the same principles as those maglev trains, but the Air Force’s setup is unique: The team uses a rocket to propel the sled along a 2,100 foot-long track at a rate of up to 928 feet per second. The sled levitates above its track using superconducting magnets that are cooled to 4 degrees Kelvin above absolute zero. It took six months of development and research to prepare the sled and track technology for these two world-record runs.

Before these latest back-to-back record-setting runs, the last successful maglev attempt was made in 2013, when the Air Force set the previously existing world record of 510 mph.

Going forward, the team is focusing on its sled design, looking at different, lighter-weight materials and exploring other improvements they can make to increase the speed of the sled even further. While world speed records are an exciting side benefit to the project, the maglev technology is being developed for a more practical application — advanced weapons testing. The maglev technology produces a vibration-free ride that is ideal for testing sensitive weapon system components that otherwise would be damaged or explode under traditional testing conditions.


Volvo has created an autonomous truck that looks like a sports car

Volvo’s autonomous truck, called Vera, is about to start work at a Swedish port. The vehicle has a modest top speed of 25 mph and features a striking design that makes it look as if the usual cab has been swapped for a sports car.

Watch as Volkswagen’s ID R racer wins the ultimate EV bragging rights

The Volkswagen ID R has set a lap record for electric cars at Germany's Nürburgring Nordschleife. The electric race car's lap time of 6 minutes, 5.33 seconds beat the previous record by 40 seconds.

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.

E3 2019: Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a charmingly taxing tactical shooter

Ghost Recon Breakpoint's island setting may look beautiful, but it's incredibly dangerous. We played one of Breakpoint's open world missions at E3 2019. If you long for a tactical shooter, Breakpoint will scratch that itch and then some.
Emerging Tech

This drone with hands looks like a nightmare straight out of Black Mirror

This unlikely drone-with-hands creation is the work of Federico Ciccarese, the brains behind YouBionic, a bionic hand project that has evolved far beyond its original brief. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

This crazy-looking robot uses microspines on its legs to climb up walls

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have built a bioinspired robot, which uses microspines on its feet to grip onto rough surfaces. This allows it to climb up very steep gradients. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Got $400 million to burn? The world’s largest airplane is up for sale

Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane, is up for sale. All it'll cost you is $400 million dollars. The brainchild of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the plane was supposed to make space travel more accessible and affordable.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.
Emerging Tech

Ex astris, scientia: Star Trek logo spotted on the surface of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going to Mars and capturing images since 2005, and now it has spotted something where no man has gone before: a structure on the planet's surface which will look familiar to Trekkies.
Emerging Tech

Adobe develops tool to identify Photoshopped images of faces

With deepfake videos making headlines, and campaigns against the Photoshopping of models, people are more aware than ever of the digital manipulation of images. Now Adobe wants to give tools to users to let them spot faked images.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will pave the way for manned missions to Mars

Survival on Mars is a massive challenge for humanity. To cope with the highly variable temperatures, lack of oxygen and water, and high levels of radiation, the Mars 2020 rover will carry instruments to pave the way for human exploration.
Emerging Tech

Facebook builds virtual homes to train A.I. agents in realistic environments

Researchers at Facebook have created Habitat, which is a platform that enables rapid training for A.I. agents. They will receive thousands of hours of training in just a few minutes in the virtual homes.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods struggles to keep up with Impossible Burger demand

Red Robin and White Castle have reported Impossible Burger shortages, as it appears that Impossible Foods is struggling to keep up with demand. The company will be selling its meat-like patties in retail outlets within the year.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!