Regent has unveiled a full-scale mock-up of the 12-passenger Viceroy electric-powered wing-in-ground-effect sea glider prototype it aims to start flight testing in 2024. The mock-up, which includes a fully equipped cabin, incorporates lessons learned from tests conducted with a one-quarter-scale technology demonstrator. It will be on display for prospective customers and partners to inspect at the company’s headquarters in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.
During an unveiling event on April 14, Regent announced that it has selected EP Systems and MagicAll to supply the batteries and electric motors for the sea glider. The company expects the Viceroy, which will have a 60-foot wingspan, to have a range of 180 miles and to connect coastal communities.
In recent months, the U.S. start-up has boosted its management team with appointments to its advisory board including David Neeleman, founder and former CEO of JetBlue and now CEO of Breeze Airways, and former Boeing Company CEO Dennis Muilenburg. Regent has also received new strategic investments from Lockheed Martin, Japan Airlines, and Yamato Holdings.
“This mock-up, along with the announcement of our plans to build new state-of-the-art facilities, showcases our growth trajectory and our commitment to begin production as soon as possible,” commented Regent co-founder and CEO Billy Thalheimer. “Our studies, based on publicly validated data, show that our sea gliders serve an $11 billion market that we project to swell to as much as $25 billion as battery technology advances.”
Operators Plan for New Coastal Routes
Regent has announced provisional sales agreements for more than 400 sea gliders from several prospective operators, including Mesa Airlines, Ocean Flyer, and Mokulele Airlines, as well as from Brittany Ferries, which connects cities on either side of the English Channel. According to the manufacturer, the value of these agreements could total $8 billion once the sea glider has been certified under maritime regulations and deliveries are made, starting in 2025.
Hawaii-based Mokulele Airlines and its parent company, Southern Airways, are expected to be the first commercial operators of the Viceroy. Southern Airways CEO Stan Little said that the group had been approached by dozens of alternative aircraft suppliers before it opted to expand its fleet with sea gliders. Mokulele Airlines has also evaluated Ampaire’s hybrid-electric conversion of the Cessna Grand Caravan.
Switzerland-based start-up Jekta is developing a 19-passenger electric amphibious aircraft called the PHA-ZE 100. It recently announced that air charter broker Gayo Aviation intends to be the launch customer for operations that could include eco-tourism.
Sea gliders fly exclusively above water by using 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 a cushion of pressurized air under downward-facing propellers supports hovercraft, WIGs have forward-facing propellers that direct airflow beneath the craft, creating pressure to provide lift while simultaneously reducing lift-induced drag.
The vehicles can operate in three modes: floating on their hulls 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.