Regent Achieves Flight Milestone With Underwater Glider Model | In depth

Sailplane developer Regent Craft’s subscale prototype took a major step last month on its journey to becoming a viable transport option along coastlines or near large bodies of water.

The company’s demonstrator, a quarter-scale model of a production aircraft it plans to call “Viceroy”, has successfully transitioned from hovering, to hydrofoil travel, to flight, during tests in Naragansett Bay, off Rhode Island, general manager Billy Thalheimer told FlightGlobal Sept. 22.

“It’s a very big step for gliders,” he said. “The interest of seagliders is to make this regional transport accessible and easy. And to do that, you need to have wave tolerance and comfortable rides, to be able to operate at high frequencies, to be independent of weather, so you can be used, so your costs go down and people can rely on your service. ”

“Historically, the problem was that no one was able to push a foil fast enough [through the water] and get a fairly slow wing where they overlap. It is Regent’s key innovation and the main distinguishing factor of the sea glider from all wing vehicles in the ground effect of the past.

The fully electric wing-in-ground-effect (wig) vehicle is designed to fly in a wingspan over water to take advantage of aerodynamic and operational efficiencies. The craft’s “sweet spot,” however, is about a quarter to half the wingspan, Thalheimer says, allowing for increased payload capacity and greater range than other electric aircraft concepts currently. in development.

Ground effect is the lift generated when an aircraft flies close to the earth’s surface, forcing air through the narrow space between the aircraft and the ground and reducing aerodynamic drag.

The subscale prototype has a wingspan of 18 feet, and Viceroy’s wingspan will be around 60 to 65 feet. So the craft will likely be moving at an altitude of about 10 to 30 feet above the water.


“We’re going to board like a boat, we’re going to foil through the harbor like a hydrofoil ferry, and we’re only going to fly the open seas when we can use the speed and nobody’s in the way.” he adds. “So the key part of all of this is how do you couple that foil, which gives us wave tolerance, safety and maneuverability with the wing.”

“Functionally we are the first wave-tolerant wig, technically we were the first hydro-foiling wig. And so we couple this actively controlled hydrofoil with our distributed electrically powered blown wing technology,” says- he.

The company hopes the entry-level Viceroy, which will carry up to 12 passengers and two crew, will begin sea trials in 2024 and aims to have craft in commercial service in 2025. Initially, it will move at a top speed of 162 kt (300 km/h), up to 162 nm (300 km), although Regent says improved battery technology could eventually allow its vehicles to have over 400 nm autonomy.

The company is working with the US Coast Guard to certify the craft as a maritime vehicle, but is also coordinating with the FAA, she said.

In May, Regent announced that he was working on a second, larger starship called “Monarch”. This vehicle will carry up to 100 people and is expected to enter service by 2028, Thalheimer said.

Around this time, Hawaiian Airlines also made a strategic investment in Regent, seeing the Monarch as having the potential to operate inter-island routes.

Hawaiian is Regent’s first U.S.-based design partner for Monarch, and the glider could replace Hawaiian’s aging Boeing 717 fleet of 17 that fly most of the carrier’s island-hopping routes. These planes are, on average, more than two decades old, according to Cirium fleet data, and Hawaiian said it is beginning to look at alternatives to replace them over the next decade.

Thalheimer adds that airlines and ferry operators in several parts of the world are interested in the craft. About half of the company’s $7 billion in pre-orders come from airlines and the other half from shipping operations.

REGENT Viceroy 2

“Regent has created the solution for people who want to travel those strenuous regional routes by plane and strenuous by boat,” he says. A sea glider is six times faster than a traditional ferry, and the craft can serve a new market for an airline. Operating costs are also lower and all-electric gliders eliminate emissions.

“Both of these types of businesses serve the end customer who is simply trying to cross a body of water,” he adds. “The other exciting thing is that we’re starting to see the formation of the first dedicated companies in the world that exclusively operate sea gliders.”

Regent initially targets routes, for example, between the Hawaiian Islands, Miami to the Bahamas, New York to Long Island, or Boston to the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, he says. In Europe, “you can go all around the Mediterranean, Italy, Greece, or on the other side of the Channel”.

As batteries improve, it plans to serve longer routes by the end of the decade, “using either advanced cells or hydrogen technology to power our later vehicles” . This would allow a Regent glider to travel non-stop between Boston and New York, or Los Angeles to San Francisco.

In February, Regent said it raised $18 million in funding, led by Thiel Capital, with participation from existing and new investors, including U.S. regional carrier Mesa Air Group. As part of the deal, Mesa agreed to purchase 200 gliders.

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