Watch world's first flying electric boat concept complete its test flight

Regent's electric seaglider successfully completed its first series of flights and demonstrated her ability to fully fulfill its "float-foil-fly" mission.
Christopher McFadden
Regent's Electric Seaglider
Regent's Electric Seaglider

Assets 

A video of Regent's unique Seaglider prototype in flight testing has just been released. The machine offers breakthrough speed and range in coastal locations as the first to combine the efficiency benefits of ground effect with hydro-foiling in a single design.

Although wing-in-ground effect (WIG) aircraft like the Soviet-era Ekranoplan had previously shown promise, they haven't quite taken off as a standard mode of transportation. As long as they keep within their wingspan of the surface below, the air cushion between the wings and the surface gives these low-flying birds a significant lift and efficiency gain over ordinary planes flying higher in the air.

Although ground-effect aircraft could fly over land due to this extreme height restriction, doing so would be extremely risky for routine operations. Therefore, they usually stay over water.

“People have been attempting to make wing-in-ground effect vehicles viable for 60 years, and in 15 months we have gone from a drawing on a napkin to the first successful flight,” said Mike Klinker, Regent CTO, and co-founder, in a press release.

However, the economics of these machines have been less than attractive to date, but electrification could be the key. Battery capacity is the main reason electric boats cannot go great distances via the challenging medium of water.

Early electric aircraft also have trouble providing a practical range while carrying a reasonable number of passengers. When Regent considered this, it became clear that, when combined with more modern technology, the efficiency of the old ground-effect vehicle may give it a competitive advantage.

What's more, the progress of this machine has been blindingly fast. In just 15 months, a sketch on the back of a napkin was transformed into a flying quarter-scale airplane and $7 billion in sales.

How does the Seaglider work?

The V-shaped hull and fuselage of Regent's Seaglider are intended to allow the Seaglider to taxi slowly like a boat on the sea. It lifts out of the water on a set of hydrofoils as it accelerates for takeoff.

Watch world's first flying electric boat concept complete its test flight
Artist's impression of the Seaglider in flight.

It can travel comfortably above the water's surface by lifting the cabin out of the waves. Additionally, it significantly reduces drag, lowering the energy needed to push through the water.

The hull's shape also vastly reduces drag and thus the energy required to push through the water, so it uses much less energy to reach takeoff speed for wing-borne flight. Once the aircraft is out of the water, the hydrofoils fold away and descend for the landing.

The end product, according to Regent, will be pretty impressive. It will be, so they say, a swift, quiet, comfortable, 14-seat electric coastal transport capable of traveling at speeds up to 180 mph (300 km/h) while emitting no emissions.

This is achieved, so they say, by utilizing currently available commercial batteries. It should be affordable, with an operating cost half that of an airplane, and very fast to boot. It is claimed to be six times faster than a boat of equivalent size.

Additionally, the idea is scaleable; just as the now aging Ekranoplans were more effective as they grew in size, so too should this one. Versions with at least 150 passengers are on the radar of Regent.

And, the market appears to be responding well to Regent's plans.

Regent has received pre-orders totaling an astounding $7 billion, including a sizable number of deposits for various-sized aircraft. A quarter-scale Seaglider prototype with a wingspan of about 18 feet (5.5 m) has now had its first video debut from the business.

The video above demonstrates the vehicle's slow taxi, quick, fluid hydrofoil, takeoff, wing-borne cruise, and landing.

Although it was all filmed in calm seas and good weather, it is astonishing to observe how gracefully these objects hydrofoil. Although the takeoff and landing appear to be a little more exciting, and we are curious to find out what it feels like inside the cabin as they slow down and strike the water, it will probably be a gentler landing than a seaplane.

“Regent is the first team in history to overcome the deficiency of low wave tolerance with past designs by combining high-speed hydrofoils with ground-effect flight – a crucial innovation that will revolutionize coastal transit. No vehicle in history can match the combined wave tolerance and speed of our seaglider,” Klinker added.

Watch world's first flying electric boat concept complete its test flight
6244e0f5088ec159b8156f41_Multimodal Transport Exterior-p-1080.jpg
null

What's next for Regent and its Seaglider?

The next stage for Regent is to create a full-scale prototype with a 65-foot (19.8 m) wingspan for manned trials, which it aims to start in 2024. Regent has already raised about $18 million it needs for this part of the project.

By 2025, the Seaglider is anticipated to be in mass production and capable of carrying paying passengers.

Although that deadline is ambitious, Regent has committed significant funding and has already shown that it can move quickly. And because it can certify this thing as a WIG marine vessel rather than an FAA-type vessel, it has a significant advantage over next-generation aircraft like electric VTOL air taxis.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board