Is It a Flying Boat? Boston Startup Set To Test Electric Boat-Plane Hybrid in 2022

A flying boat is a half as expensive as an airplane and six times faster than a ferry.

REGENT’s electric seaglider can fly at a top speed of 180 mph a few meters above water. Regent

Who needs flying cars when we have flying boats? Next year, an electric seaglider, a sort of boat-plane hybrid, made by Boston-based aerospace startup REGENT, will be put into test in Florida’s Tampa Bay, the company said on Thursday. The news was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

In the aviation industry, a seaglider belongs to a category called ground-effect vehicle (GEV) or wing-in-ground-effect (WIG). Both terms describe vehicles designed to glide over a level surface—usually water—by making use of ground effect, the aerodynamic interaction between the moving wing and the surface below. The advantage is a higher speed and less energy consumption compared with regular aircrafts.

However, some previously made WIGs are known for having poor wave tolerance and must launch into the sky from a dock, making them unsuitable for commercial travel, REGENT CEO Billy Thalheimer told the Tampa Bay Times. REGENT improves on existing designs by using hydrofoils, or underwater wings, to allow its seaglider to hover over waves at a low speed before taking off—sort of using the water as a runway.

“They’re not able to be operated in crowded harbors and so that hydrofoil is really the key to unlock,” Thalheimer said.

When not flying, the seaglider can be docked at the harbor just like a boat. And once it takes off, it can fly a few meters above the water at a top speed of 180 mph for up to an hour with current battery technology.

That’s enough to fly from Tampa to other popular Florida coastal destinations such as St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Fort Myers. REGENT said its seaglider can double the range of electric aircraft powered by similar batteries. It’s also half as expensive as a commercial airplane and six times faster than a ferry.

“Tampa has a great history of aviation: the first commercial air flight took off from Tampa. The heritage is strong, and Mayor Castor has been a great partner in continuing to foster this innovation,” Thalheimer told Observer. “Tampa also has a protected waterway and reliable weather patterns that make it a robust location for testing.”

REGENT was founded in 2020 by Michael Klinker and Billy Thalheimer, who both previously studied aerospace engineering at MIT and worked at Aurora Flight Sciences, a research subsidiary of Boeing. REGENT is backed by a roster of venture capital investors, including Y Combinator, Founders Fund, Mark Cuban and others.

The company unveiled its first prototype in April. If tests go according to the plan, the first commercial seaglider will reach the market sometime in 2025. Initial models will seat about 12 passengers. Future versions will have room for about 50 to 100 passengers.

Is It a Flying Boat? Boston Startup Set To Test Electric Boat-Plane Hybrid in 2022