Pop quiz hotshot: what has wings, engines, and flies…but is not
Tech startup Regent
has the answer: a Seaglider.
Regent’s Seagliders are what’s known as wing-in-ground-effect
(WIG) vehicles or ground effect vehicles (GEVs). We’ll call them WIGs cause it has a better ring to it.
WIGs take advantage of the invisible force that makes student pilots continually land long—a phenomenology that increases the efficiency of a lift-generating airfoil when it’s close to the surface.
The idea for WIGs dates back to the 1960s when the ~20% increased efficiency in ground effect was very appealing for rapidly transiting large swaths of water.
Since WIGs blur the lines between an airplane and a boat, the International Maritime Organization lumps them into three classes:
- Type A: a WIG that only operates in ground effect
- Type B: a WIG that can temporarily operate with very limited flight out of ground effect
- Type C: a WIG that can operate out of ground effect (i.e., fly)
Regent’s Seaglider is a Type A WIG, meaning it doesn’t fall under the FAA and doesn’t have a pilot or co-pilot—it falls under the Coast Guard and has a maritime captain and first mate.
Shower thought: If one of these gets stolen or hijacked, can we call the perpetrator a pirate?
Regent’s eight-engined electric-powered Seagliders are targeting quiet, smooth transportation between coastal communities (the Hawaiian Islands, the Hamptons, etc.) with 12-passenger trips.
It’s targeting the 1-hour market, with a projected baseline of 160 knots (160 NM range for those who don’t know what a knot is). That’s slower than an H-60 but faster than most commercial helicopters.
Bonus Geek stuff: Regent’s Seagliders are the only WIGs developed to date that is using a hydrofoil. Unlike a flat hull required to get on plane (on top of the water) at speed, a hydrofoil permits the use of a deep-V hull so it can 1) work in various sea conditions and 2) make “takeoffs and landings” smooth.