Futuristic WIG Sea-Skimming Ferries Complete AiP With BV

Seagliders operate for a hydrofoil concept and would be regulated as ships (Regent)

Posted on August 30, 2022 at 6:07 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

The wing-in-ground (WIG) effect sea glider, which has captured the attention of both the maritime and aviation industry, has moved closer to commercialization with the receipt of an approval from Principle (AiP) of Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore. A Boston-based startup founded by former employees of Boeing’s rapid prototyping division, Regent (Regional Electric Ground Effect Naval Transport) is developing the concept of the all-electric, high-wing, hydrofoil aircraft that combines designs from aircraft and hydrofoils and is regulated as a ship.

The issuance of the AiP is the culmination of a 10 month commitment between Regent and Bureau Veritas engineers, which included a series of workshops encompassing aspects of vehicle structure, mechanical systems, avionics, propulsion and safety systems. Throughout the process, Bureau Veritas provided preliminary expert advice with a focus on early identification of the rules and regulatory framework for glider classification.

“This certification milestone is an extremely important time for the design and technical maturity of the glider,” said Billy Thalheimer, co-founder and CEO of Regent. “This is the first major result of our maritime certification process. The approval in principle confirms that we are on a feasible certification path to commercialization of sailplanes.

The review has been completed for Regent’s all-electric 12-passenger design known as the Viceroy. The company explains that the ships will operate within a few meters of the surface of the water and combine the high speed of the aircraft with the low cost of operating the ships. With existing battery technology, Regent said last fall it was already possible to service routes of around 180 miles at speeds of up to 160 knots. They believe that future battery technology will allow operation over 400 miles. Advances in battery technology will also allow the company to increase the size of the vessel with the next generation envisioned as a design for 50 passengers and in the longer term for 150 or more.

Since announcing its concept, Regent has attracted strong interest, particularly from Brittany Ferries who last year signed a letter of intent with Regent that could see them develop sea gliders of capacity of 50 to 150 passengers who could be navigate between the UK and France by 2028. A US regional airline, Mesa Group, said it was considering purchasing 200 of the new WIG spacecraft to build a city-to-city network.

Regent reports that the AiP will be followed by a design evaluation process, including a series of ongoing engineering studies that will allow the design and operation of the glider to be implemented without significant risk of compliance or qualification. Upon completion of a design assessment, Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore will provide independent safety-based certification of the Regent’s Sea Glider design.

The company also plans to leverage AiP in support of a design basis agreement with the US Coast Guard, which is expected this fall. The AiP and DBA form a classification and certification basis with Bureau Veritas and the US Coast Guard, similar to the G-1 and G-2 subject documents used in FAA aircraft certification.

Regent predicted that the ships could be in commercial operation before the end of the decade. They report a $7 billion backlog of tentative orders for their sea gliders from ferry and aviation operators.

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