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
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
“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
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.