"The question is, have they bitten off more than they can chew?"
Satellite images obtained by MIT Technology Review show marked progress on Saudi Arabia's 100-mile megacity called the "Line."
The images, courtesy of Australian satellite image aggregator Soar Earth, show a massive area of active construction sites, with some spots already dug out deep below the surface.
The goal is to construct a $500 billion project zero-carbon skyscraper that can house up to nine million people in the middle of the desert, a utopian dream that has raised plenty of eyebrows.
According to MIT Tech, an estimated 26 million cubic meters, or almost a billion cubic feet, of earth and rock have already been dug out since construction kicked off this summer.
The images show 425 excavation vehicles working on the Line over a single stretch of the project. A nearby construction base covers two square miles and features several swimming pools, soccer fields, and even a solar farm, according to the report.
Until now, high-definition imagery of the site was "nonexistent publicly," as Amir Farhand, CEO and founder of Soar Earth, told MIT Tech. Some experts are intrigued by why the imagery isn't showing up on larger imagery providers like Maxar Technologies.
"If there’s no Maxar images acquired over an area that is experiencing rapid economic investment, something fishy is going on," Jamon Van Den Hoek, a geography professor at Oregon State University, told the publication.
And that's especially relevant for the Line, a project which has been mired in controversy from the very start. Saudi Arabia reportedly forced local tribal community members from their homes to make space for project, which has already led to several death sentences.
Critics have also called out the mammoth skyscraper as an overly ambitious vanity project that likely won't make good on its lofty promises.
"At every part of this project, there’s massive terraforming going on, and some of the stuff is going to indelibly change the environment forever," Farhand told MIT Tech. "The question is, have they bitten off more than they can chew?"
READ MORE: These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway [MIT Technology Review]
More on the Line: Saudi Arabia Begins Construction of 100 Mile Skyscraper