Regent Craft is collaborating with Siemens Digital Industries Software to streamline the development and production of its all-electric seagliders. The Boston-based startup announced on August 2 that it has adopted the Siemens Xcelerator software as a service (XaaS) to support the design, engineering, and development of its seaglider, a new type of vehicle that the company says will revolutionize transportation between coastal cities.
The Siemens XaaS provides an integrated portfolio of engineering software that combines a product’s mechanical design, electronics, software, and physical simulations to create a comprehensive virtual representation known as a digital twin. Companies like Regent can leverage these digital twins to simplify and speed up product development, reducing the need to build more prototypes while minimizing costs and resources.
“As our seagliders approach certification and full-scale commercial production, we need a robust, modern digital tools platform that supports the pace of our innovation cycles with the rigor to encompass a product as complex as ours,” said Regent co-founder and chief technology officer Mike Klinker. “Siemens Xcelerator as a Service was a perfect fit for a digital-first startup like ours,” he added. “Cloud native solutions, such as Teamcenter X, minimize administrative overhead and allow us to focus 100 percent on design, engineering, manufacturing, and innovation.”
Regent has been developing its high-speed, zero-emissions seagliders since 2020, and the company aims to have its intial 12-seat Viceroy model ready to enter service in 2025. Viceroy, Regent’s flagship seaglider, is designed to transport passengers or cargo across distances of up to 180 miles (300 kilometers), a range that the company says could more than double in the future as next-generation battery technology becomes available. Regent is also developing a larger, 100-seat model called the Monarch.
Seagliders are a type of wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) vehicle that fly exclusively above water by making use of an aerodynamic phenomenon known as the ground effect, in which air flowing below the vehicle provides lift. The technology is somewhat of a cross between a traditional seaplane and a hovercraft, although seagliders cannot hover. Whereas hovercraft are supported by a cushion of pressurized air under downward-facing propellers, WIGs have forward-facing propellers that direct airflow beneath the craft, creating pressure to provide lift while simultaneously reducing lift-induced drag.
Each seaglider can operate in three different modes: floating on its hull near a dock, foiling on hydrofoils at slow speeds (up to 40 knots), and flying at high speeds (up to 160 knots) just a few meters above the water’s surface while cruising. According to Regent, its seagliders travel up to six times faster than conventional ferries.
The company plans to begin flight testing in August with a quarter-scale prototype of the Viceroy model called Squire, Klinker told FutureFlight. Flight testing of the full-scale Viceroy, which has a 60-foot wingspan, is expected to begin in late 2023.
Klinker said that Regent recently completed wind tunnel testing with Squire at Ontario Tech University’s Ace Climatic Wind Tunnel. “One of the most important insights we learned from that trip was our optimal angle of attack for flight,” Klinker told FutureFlight. “With that data, our software development team has been working with the Siemens Xcelerator to fine-tune our digital twin, enabling us to practice the novel foil-to-flight transition in a simulated environment ahead of the live testing.”
Because Regent’s seagliders operate as WIGs, the craft will undergo regulatory scrutiny as a watercraft, meaning that Regent must follow rules of certification set by the U.S. Coast Guard rather than the Federal Aviation Administration. Regent says the maritime testing and certification process provides a more efficient pathway to entering services, which means that its seagliders could begin operations sooner than other electric aircraft while maintaining similar levels of safety.
Regent claims it holds sales commitments worth $7 billion, with prospective customers including U.S. commuter carrier Southern Airways Express, New York-based Fly the Whale, New Zealand’s Ocean Flyer, Goombay Air in the Bahamas, Croatia's Split Express, and the European shipping group Brittany Ferries.