Could flying ferries transform travel between coastal communities?
U.S. Senator Jack Reed on Tuesday joined officials from REGENT Craft Inc. (REGENT stands for Regional Electric Ground Effect Nautical Transport), a Quonset-based startup developing electric ‘flying boats,’ for a tour of their facilities and a live demonstration of REGENT’s all-electric, quarter-scale seaglider.
REGENT is developing a line of seagliders that operate exclusively over water, traversing the sea in one of three modes: hull, hydrofoil, or flight in ground effect, which means the seagliders fly at high speeds just above the surface of the water, at a height not to exceed the glider’s wingspan, harnessing the aerodynamic interaction between the moving wing and the surface below.
Seagliders use the latest technology from the America’s Cup to transition through harbors on their wave-tolerant hydrofoils. Once clear of the crowded harbor waterways, and using the bay as a runway, seagliers liftoff from their foils to their wings and fly at aircraft speeds on a cushion of air, enabling trips from Providence to Block Island in 30 minutes, or Providence to Manhattan in 90 minutes.
The seaglider test campaign today utilized a quarter-scale prototype with an 18-foot wingspan (the first full-scale model will have a 65-foot wingspan and will be capable of carrying 12 passengers, while still being 100 percent powered by batteries). Future models could have longer wingspans and room for about 50 to 100 passengers.
REGENT expects human-carrying sea trials to begin in 2024 and is targeting a 2025 entry date for its new line of seagliders into commercial service. REGENT chose Rhode Island to establish its global headquarters due to the Ocean State’s rich maritime talent pool and optimal testing environment.
Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, has worked at the federal level to make Rhode Island a leader in maritime technology and directed federal resources to upgrade the infrastructure at Quonset Point.
“We are constantly looking for ways to strengthen Rhode Island’s blue economy. This is innovative technology that could make coastal transportation more efficient, eco-friendly, and cost-effective. I’m pleased to see REGENT bringing more jobs to Rhode Island and tapping into the state’s composite manufacturing and research network,” said Senator Reed.
“There is no better place on the planet to build seagliders than Rhode Island,” said Billy Thalheimer, REGENT co-founder and CEO. “Between access to Narragansett Bay, acres of coastal industrial real estate in Quonset, access to the top maritime composites talent in the country, and a strong economic incentive package – Rhode Island was the clear choice. REGENT is proud to be headquartered in a state that is taking strides to lead in both Blue and Green Technology.”
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