skyTran cityCLEARWATER, Fla. -- Remember the Jetsons' iconic flying car? If you watched the 1960s cartoon, you probably dreamt of riding around in the futuristic vehicle.

Well, you might get your chance thanks to a company out of Clearwater that is hoping to transform the way you see transportation.

“The Jetsons were 100 years into the future. Well, we’re only 50 years into the future, so we’re on schedule for what the Jetson’s forecasted,” said Tom Nocera, managing member of BeachTran Clearwater. 

Nocera’s company is poised to be the first owner and operator in the western hemisphere of a unique magnetically levitated transportation system. When you see the technology, you will think it is something out of a science fiction movie. skyTran, a NASA Space Act Company, first conceived it in 1990.

The aerial private rapid transit system could be an answer to Tampa Bay’s traffic problem. 

"We think we can take one-third of the cars off the road to [Clearwater] Beach," Nocera said. "I think this is the technology that will solve Florida's transportation problems."

How does it work? The solar powered, magnetically levitated private vehicles glide along a monorail at 40-50 mph above traffic. You will drive or Uber to a terminal much like a train station, reserve a vehicle using an application on your phone, hop into a private vehicle and glide to the next station. Nocera plans to build the first BeachTran route between downtown Clearwater and Clearwater Beach by the end of 2018. Then, it will expand along Gulf to Bay Boulevard to Tampa International Airport.

"We want to be able to connect Raymond James Stadium to Clearwater Beach by the Super Bowl in February 2021," Nocera said. 

Nocera wants the system to go directly into the stadium and drop you off at your seat. If you are thinking this man has some out of this world ideas, you are correct.

"I had the opportunity to grow up when we were putting man on the moon. My dad was involved in that over at Kennedy Space Center,” Nocera said. “I landed a job over there the summer we landed men on the moon for the first time...I think I was meant to do this. My whole life guided me to introduce a new form of transportation for my hometown."

Nocera was the youngest member of the launch crew for Apollo 11. He keeps a picture of himself with Buzz Aldrin in his office. It's quite fitting that right now skyTran is in negotiations with Kennedy Space Center to build the first test track of the technology by March 2018.

10News has been in contact with Kennedy Space Center to plan a visit once the track is built. 

"There's nothing that can stop this from happening. People are waiting for a solution to traffic. We can save lives, time, and money. How can it lose?" Nocera said.

The technology is privately funded, so no taxpayer money will be used. The BeachTran team has presented plans to Forward Pinellas and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Credit:  Hilary Zalla, WTSP November 29, 2017



A startup satellite manufacturer and a developer of futuristic mass transit vehicles would bring work to the Space Coast under proposed deals with Space Florida. 

Space Florida’s board of directors this week approved loaning up to $750,000 to York Space Systems, a Denver-based startup seeking to mass produce small satellites at a rate of 200 a year.

In return, the company would bring 24 jobs with average salaries of $70,000 and invest $20 million in the state over the next five years for production or testing work.

York is an “emerging company in the marketplace, and one we’re very, very pleased to have the opportunity to attract,” said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello.

Similar to OneWeb Satellites, which is building a production facility at Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park, York’s concept is to crank out low-cost satellites using a common platform for a variety of commercial or government space missions.

The industry historically has built large, highly customized satellites in small batches, with individual spacecraft often costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

York’s satellites, weighing up to roughly 330 pounds, will cost between $675,000 and $1.6 million, according to its website. The Army is a partner in the launch of a prototype mission called Harbinger that at one point was targeted for late this year.

The company declined to comment on its plans in Florida or elsewhere.

If the deal is completed, Space Florida would provide the loan in three installments tied to the company raising another $2 million, and basing work in Florida that could include design, production, integration or testing. The agency would hold an “observer” role on York’s board.

After five years of interest-only payments at an annual rate of 5.5 percent, Space Florida would be repaid or could instead take an ownership stake in the company.

“Bringing another satellite manufacturer to Florida is certainly a win,” said Bill Dymond, head of Space Florida’s board.

Separately, Space Florida confirmed that a Silicon Valley-based mass transit company — not an aerospace business — may the first commercial operation to set up shop at KSC’s former space shuttle runway, which NASA turned over to the state two years ago.

The agency employing about 40 people — with plans to hire seven more — has not offered raises or cost-of-living pay increases since 2013.

The goal is to push salaries to near the midpoint of a peer group range determined by a market study from Melbourne-based Harrington and Associates. The study found Space Florida was at 81 percent of that midpoint.

Employees scoring “exceptional” on performance evaluations now will be eligible for merit pay raises of up to 4 percent.

Under the bonus program approved in 2015, DiBello could have earned a bonus of up to half his nearly $268,000 salary.

But recognizing that even small bonuses would not go over well in Tallahassee right now, Space Florida scrapped the program it planned to implement this year, citing “stakeholders’ concerns and resistance.” 

Gov. Rick Scott has asked two economic development agencies that were under intense scrutiny during the last session, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, not to award bonuses.

Article by:  Dean