Certification group Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore this week issued an approval in principle (AiP) to Regent Craft covering its in-development wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) sea glider. According to Regent, the approval is a significant milestone in its efforts to complete certification of the 12-passenger, all-electric Viceroy model under maritime regulations.
Earlier this year, the company started testing a quarter-scale technology demonstrator of the Viceroy model called Squire at Tampa in Florida. In recent months, more tests have been conducted in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.
Testing of the full-scale Viceroy, which has a 60-foot wingspan, is expected to begin in late 2023. The company aims to have it approved to start commercial operations in 2025.
According to Regent, the AiP is based on a 10-month process conducted by its engineering team and Bureau Veritas that included workshops focused on the vehicle’s structure, mechanical systems, avionics, propulsion, and safety systems. Bureau Veritas has provided the Boston-based start-up with advice on identifying the rules and regulatory framework for the classification of the sea glider.
The next step in the program will be a design appraisal, consisting of technical studies already underway that Regent says “will allow the implementation of the sea glider's design and operation without significant risk of compliance or qualification issues.” The AiP will also be used to support an application for a design basis agreement (DBA) with the U.S. Coast Guard, which the company hopes to complete this fall. It said that the AiP and the DBA collectively form a classification and certification basis that is similar to G-1 and G-2 issue papers used by the FAA to set out, respectively, the certification basis and means of compliance for new aircraft.
According to Ted Lester, Regent's head of certification, the U.S. Coast Guard has statutory authority to regulate WIG vehicles under its authority to regulate small passenger vessels including design approval, inspection, construction and crewing. "In 2002, Congress specifically included WIGs in the definition of small passenger vessels and the coast guard has confirmed in writing its jurisdiction over Regent's sea gliders," he told FutureFlight.
Viceroy, Regent’s flagship sea glider, is designed to transport passengers or cargo up to 180 miles (300 kilometers), a range that the company says could more than double as next-generation battery technology becomes available. The company is also developing a larger, 100-seat model called the Monarch.
Seagliders are a type of WIG vehicle that flies 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 represents somewhat of a cross between a traditional seaplane and a hovercraft, although sea gliders 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 sea glider can operate in three 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 while cruising. According to Regent, its sea gliders will operate up to six times faster than conventional ferries.
The company now claims to have logged a $7 billion backlog of provisional orders for the Viceroy from ferry and air transport companies. The prospective customers include 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.
Earlier this month, Regent announced a collaboration with Siemens Digital Industries Software to streamline the development and production of the Viceroy. It has adopted the Siemens Xcelerator software as a service (XaaS) to support the design, engineering, and development of its sea glider, a new type of vehicle that the company says will revolutionize transportation between coastal cities.