NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island-based startup company is developing new electric “flying boats” that could make traveling between coastal communities a whole lot faster.
REGENT, which stands for “Regional Electric Ground Effect Nautical Transport,” is creating a line of prototype “seagliders” that operate exclusively over water.
Seagliders, according to REGENT, are 100% battery operated and travel through harbors on their wave-tolerant hydrofoils. Once the seaglider clears crowded waterways, it lifts off from its foils to its wings and flies at aircraft speeds.
Sen. Jack Reed, who has directed federal resources to upgrade infrastructure at Quonset Point, toured REGENT’s facility Tuesday and took a ride on a quarter-scale seaglider prototype.
“We are constantly looking for ways to strengthen Rhode Island’s blue economy,” Reed said. “This is innovative technology that could make coastal transportation more efficient, eco-friendly and cost-effective.”
“I’m pleased to see REGENT bringing more jobs to Rhode Island and tapping into the state’s composite manufacturing and research network,” Reed said.
REGENT chose Rhode Island as its global headquarters because of the state’s rich maritime connection and ideal testing environment.
“There is no better place on the planet to build seagliders than Rhode Island,” REGENT CEO and co-founder Bill Thalheimer said. “Between access to Narragansett Bay, acres of coastal industrial real estate in Quonset, access to the top maritime composites talent in the country, and a strong economic incentive package — Rhode Island was the clear choice.”
Seagliders would enable trips from Providence to Block Island in 30 minutes and Providence to Manhattan in 90 minutes, according to Reed.
The first full-scale seaglider will have a 65-foot wingspan and will be capable of carrying 12 passengers. REGENT said future models will eventually have longer wingspans and will be capable of carrying 50 to 100 passengers.
Human-carrying seaglider trials are expected to begin in 2024. REGENT hopes that the seagliders will be available for commercial service in 2025.