This Hybrid Boat-plane Could Transform the Way We Travel Between Major Coastal Cities
As lawmakers take steps toward improving the infrastructure of roads and railways across the U.S., Regent, a Boston-based startup, has set its eyes on another target: the sea.
According to CNN Travel, the company hopes to turn sea lanes along the east and west coasts into high-speed transportation corridors, cutting commutes in half between some of the biggest and busiest metropolises in the U.S. Still in its early stages, Regent already has the backing of some of Silicon Valley's biggest investors who have pledged to help fund the endeavor.
Imagine skipping long lines at the airport or avoiding gridlock on the highway and still making the journey between New York and Boston in two hours. Or, consider decreasing the usually two-hour trip between Los Angeles and San Diego to just 50 minutes. Regent's seagliders could make that possible.
Using their backgrounds in aviation, Regent's founders are reimagining an aerodynamic principle known as "ground effect" and giving it a mainstream application that would allow for zero-emissions transportation. The result is a boat-meets-plane hybrid vehicle.
When traveling at high speeds, Regent's hybrid vehicles will hover a few meters above the water, but once they reach their final destination, they can rest on the water just like every other boat at port.
Ground-effect vehicles are nothing new, but key issues have prevented them from becoming widely available for commercial transportation. Specifically, they are "wave sensitive," which makes them difficult to operate in choppy waters, plus they have poor turning capabilities.
Regent claims to have solved these obstacles with new features that put their vehicles in a class of their own. So much so that the company has coined a new name for its ground-effect craft: seagliders.
Regent seagliders will have all the benefits of a regular ground-effect vehicle, but with the added benefits of a hydrofoil fast boat and technology that allows for a smooth transition between airborne mode and operating on water. They'll also be entirely electric, making them an eco-friendly mode of transportation as well.
If all goes according to plan, Regent expects its seagliders to operate six times faster than traditional ferries and to have double the range of electric aircraft at half the cost. The first version of the seaglider will only carry up to 12 passengers. The company's founders estimate that the cost per ticket per trip will be anywhere from $50 to $80. When the 50-passenger seaglider enters the market, that price could drop to $30 to $40.
But for now, travelers will still have to wait a while for these shorter commutes to become a reality. According to CNN Travel, Regent expects to fly an unmanned seaglider prototype by the end of this year. The prototype will be one-quarter of the seaglider's real size. By 2023, the company will begin testing full-scale seagliders.
Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she's always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.