Are all-electric seagliders the future for getting personnel to offshore platforms? French super major TotalEnergies is looking at the idea. It has reached an agreement with Massachusetts-based start-up REGENT (Regional Electric Ground Effect Nautical Transport). The company (which is registered as Regent Craft Inc.) has developed an all-electric wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) vessel, the seaglider. It says that it has a backlog of $7 billion in provisional orders for the vessel, which has recently marked two important milestones.
- On August 30, REGENT reported that it had received an Approval in Principle (AiP) from Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore for its 12-passenger, fully electric Viceroy seaglider, marking a certification milestone for seagliders and offering a path for the vehicle’s classification as a wing in ground effect (WIG) maritime vessel and the commencement of commercial operations.
- The announcement of the BV AiP was soon followed by the news that a quarter-scale, 18-foot wingspan technology demonstrator seaglider had completed its first successful series of flights in Narragansett Bay, R.I.
REGENT says the seaglider is the first-ever vehicle to successfully utilize three modes of maritime operation—floating, foiling and flying—marking a major step forward in maritime transportation.
“This is the next great moment in the history of human transportation,” said Billy Thalheimer, the company’s CEO and co-founder. ”There has not been a new mode of transportation since the helicopter.”
A wing-in-ground effect vehicle flies low (within one wingspan) over the water to take advantage of numerous aerodynamic and operational efficiencies, enabling the seaglider to offer increased payload capability and greater range than other electric aircraft concepts.
The seaglider operates in three modes: from the dock, the vehicle first drives on its hull like a traditional boat. As it leaves the harbor area and speeds up, it rises on its hydrofoil, a key maritime technology popularized by the America’s Cup sailing competitions. The hydrofoil offers significant wave tolerance and a smooth ride as the seaglider leaves a crowded harbor. Upon reaching open water, the seaglider takes flight, retracting the foil and accelerating up to cruise speed—all while staying within a wingspan of the water’s surface.
Driving a seaglider is enabled by coupling advanced digital flight software with simple boat controls.
“People have been attempting to make wing-in-ground effect vehicles viable for 60 years, and in 15 months we have gone from a drawing on a napkin to the first successful flight.”said Mike Klinker, REGENT CTO and co-founder. “REGENT is the first team in history to overcome the deficiency of low wave tolerance with past designs by combining high-speed hydrofoils with ground-effect flight—a crucial innovation that will revolutionize coastal transit. No vehicle in history can match the combined wave tolerance and speed of our seaglider. I’m proud of our multidisciplinary team that accomplished this major technical milestone—their performance and dedication are truly exceptional.”
Following the demonstration of the quarter-scale technology demonstrator the company is now focused on developing its full-scale, 65-ft wingspan prototype with human-carrying sea trials expected to begin in 2024.
While the seaglider is seen as having a number of applications on coastal ferry routes, under the agreement with TotalEnergies, the partners will identify global offshore energy sites and pilot the seaglider along a route to a selected platform. Following the initial pilot, Regent and TotalEnergies will explore new routes and conduct additional pilots to drive forward longer-term cooperation opportunities.
“We are excited to work with REGENT to explore new avenues for the deployment of all-electric seaglider technology that aims to make maritime transit greener and more efficient,” said Ludovic Macé, manager logistics and support to operations at TotalEnergies. “This partnership is part of TotalEnergies’ strategy to be a key player in electric mobility. and aligns with our strategic goals of reducing our carbon footprint and improving safety and operational efficiency.”