By Trevor Mogg
Imagine living in a coastal community and heading to the harbor for an ultra-low-altitude flight aboard an electric aircraft to a neighboring town just along the water.
Boston-based startup Regent is already working toward such a reality with its 10-passenger “seaglider” that it says could be carrying paying passengers as early as 2025.
Co-founders CEO Billy Thalheimer and CTO Michael Klinker, both of whom previously worked for a Boeing-linked company, told CNBC this week that the zero-emissions plane would begin a journey by leaving a harbor on a hydrofoil before lifting off the water to reach speeds of up to 180 mph — way faster than a lumbering ferry plying the same waters.
The video below shows how a journey might look:
Regent’s founders told CNBC that it’s aiming to launch an affordable passenger service between cities such as Boston and New York, and Los Angeles and San Francisco. Shorter journeys connecting locations such as New York City and the Hamptons, or trips between the islands of Hawaii, are also on the cards.
Notably, the aircraft will be able to operate using existing harbors, eliminating the need to build new ports, though charging facilities would need to be added.
Regent is receiving support from some serious backers, among them Caffeinated Capital, an early backer of supersonic jet startup Boom, and billionaire investors Mark Cuban and Peter Thiel.
Of particular interest to supporters of the project is Regent’s claim that it will be able to launch a passenger service relatively quickly as the aircraft’s low-altitude, sea-based design means it’s likely to face fewer regulatory hurdles than new aircraft designed for high-altitude flights over land.
With so many companies vying to enter the flying taxi space with electric aircraft, it’s exciting to see the arrival of something a little different. However, an obvious challenge for Regent will be to build an aircraft that’s able to withstand adverse weather so that it can offer a reliable travel service to passengers in all conditions.
With that in mind, the team’s current goal is to build a quarter-scale prototype aircraft with a 15-foot wingspan, with the first test flight set to take place before the end of this year.