Video: Ferry Operator FRS Plans to Use Regent's Seaglider WIG Craft
Regent, the builder a new generation of electric hydrofoiling wing-in-ground (WIG) effect craft, has added German ferry operator FRS to its growing list of customers.
Regent's "seagliders" are designed to commercialize the WIG concept, which has seen considerable experimentation but little real-world implementation over the decades. The last WIG program of size and scale was the Russian Ekranoplan missile-carrier system, which exited service after the fall of the Soviet Union. Regent's vision is far different: its Viceroy 12-seat WIG craft runs on a battery pack and eight electric motors mounted on the wings. For an extra boost during takeoff, it has retractable hydrofoils fore and aft, which help lift the hull out of the water. An early test flight shows that it can achieve a substantial altitude above the water, at least in the tested load configuration - putting it above the sea state and bank angle limitations which affect WIG craft at low altitude. (No pilot wants to dip a wingtip into a wave.)
The all-electric craft has advantages: little noise, no pollution, low maintenance, fewer moving parts, and no risk of seawater ingestion in the engine. As it is a WIG craft, its pilot would have to qualify as a master for a small passenger vessel, but would not need to go through the much more rigorous process of commercial aircraft pilot licensing.
FRS is a global operator, and Regent CEO Billy Thalheimer said that the partnership will spread the company's invention around the world.
“We’re excited to be partnering with FRS to provide cost-effective, zero-emission passenger travel and cargo solutions,” said Thalheimer. “From the United States, to Europe, to the Middle East, look for bright red FRS seagliders lowering the cost, time, and emissions of coastal travel soon.”
Other launch customers include Ocean Flyer in New Zealand, Split Express in Croatia, and Brittany Ferries in the United Kingdom and France. In addition, TotalEnergies is partnering with Regent to figure out how to use the seaglider for offshore crew transfers, both for oil and gas platforms and for offshore wind towers. Since transfer operations in an open seaway are heavily influenced by sea state, the offshore-supply role will require figuring out how to safely move cargo from the small craft to a fixed platform in a swell.