Boston-based company REGENT has designed an interesting that can travel short distances at a fraction of the cost. So is it a boat? Or a plane? What exactly is Seagliders? Well, the REGENT Seagliders are a ground effect vehicle (GEV). GEVs are aeroplanes designed to fly so low (within one wingspan of the water’s surface) that they ride on an air pressure cushion between the wing and the surface, giving them extra lift and radically boosting their efficiency.
While GEV isn’t entirely unknown, they have been around since the 1960s. The most notable and famous GEV is likely the giant Soviet Ekranoplan, capable of lifting 600 tons of cargo and hitting speeds up to 310 mph (500 km/h). The most recent launch was in 2018 with Singapore’s reverse delta-winged Wigetworks Airfish-8, which is already up and running. So what difference does REGENT offer? The seagliders are designed that aims to outperform previous standards in every aspect. The all-electric flying machines combine the speed, comfort, and navigation systems of an aircraft with the convenience, maneuverability, and affordability of a boat. It will transport commercial passengers and critical cargo with a range of 180 miles at a speed of 180 mph (290-km/h), leveraging existing dock infrastructure.
A Seaglider will carry 12 passengers; the company plans a following variant which would bring at least 50 passengers. With existing battery technology, both variants will have a 180-mile range and 180 mph top speed. The vehicles will be as safe as aircraft and have better wave and wind tolerance than existing seaplanes and WIGs. Their unique operating characteristics enable them to operate as ferries in congested waterways and high-speed transports on open waters. Seagliders are half the aircraft cost and 6x faster than ferries, with less noise and zero emissions. Seagliders have double the range of similar-sized electric aircraft, thanks to aerodynamic and operational efficiencies.
How Does it Fly?
The Seagliders fly on a dynamic air cushion created by the pressurized air between the wings and the sea, giving them extra lift and radically boosting their efficiency. The aerodynamic advantage of this so-called “ground effect,” combined with operational efficiencies of always being a few feet away from a safe landing, give Seagliders double the range of an electric aircraft. Seagliders fly 5-30 ft above the water and replace ferries and short-haul aircraft on coastal routes. However, this aerodynamic effect has its limitations, and the craft cannot fly beyond that narrow ground effect zone.
The Seagliders would operate in various modes, enabling safe operations across a diverse set of environments with a 100% electric propulsion system that enables zero-emission, high-speed transportation. After departing the dock, the vehicle initially operates at low speeds of 20-45mph on a hydrofoil offering comfortable, wave-tolerant sailing as it leaves crowded city harbors. Upon reaching open water, the Seagliders take off and accelerates to high speeds up to 180 mph, staying within one wingspan of the water’s surface. Flight safety at these low altitudes is achieved utilizing a multiply-redundant, state-of-the-art navigation and control system.
The future of Transportation
REGENT’s concept is seen to have caught the eye of significant investors as the company has accumulated $450M in provisional orders from Tier 1 operators worldwide. The company also raised a $ 9M seed round with Founders Fund, Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, Y Combinator, Caffeinated Capital, Thiel Capital, Relativity Space founder Jordan Noone, and Fitbit founder James Park. Aircraft operators are excited because Seagliders are half the operating cost of aircraft, and ferry operators are excited because Seagliders are six times faster.
Mr. Cuban, the first investor in billion-dollar rocket manufacturer Relativity Space, said, “The efficiency of coastal transportation will be 100x greater with REGENT. There is no other way to describe it. The idea of having to get between 2 coastal points is always stress-inducing. Regent changes all that and makes it fast and easy. REGENT will give people a step-change improvement in transportation. Passengers will spend less time in transit and more time with their families.”REGENT customers have been thrilled at the prospect of offering a fast, low-cost, carbon-free replacement for their fleets, thereby enabling them to meet their sustainability goals. REGENT expects the first commercial passengers to fly its seagliders in 2025. The company has also begun preparations for the first flight of the ¼ scale prototype by Q4 of this year.