Billy Thalheimer (CEO) and Michael Klinker (CTO) from REGENT
A Boston start-up called Regent wants flying ferries to be the best way to travel between coastal cities.
The start-up is developing an “electric glider” that can take a hydrofoil out of a harbor, take off at low speed using the water as a runway, and then fly over the waves at a top speed of 180 miles per hour, bringing passengers to their destination says co-founder Billy Thalheimer and CTO Michael Klinker.
The duo previously worked for a Boeing company, Aurora Flight Sciences, and both are FAA licensed private pilots. Thalheimer told CNBC that Regent wants to travel between coastal cities quickly, safely, affordably and reliably with the lowest possible ecological footprint. (The company’s name is an abbreviation for Regional Electric Ground Effect Naval Transport.)
The sea gliders technically designed by Regent fall into the Wing in Ground Effect Crafts or WIGs category. Historically, they were not regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, but rather by the US Coast Guard.
The important thing is that Regent develop its gliders to work with the existing port infrastructure, says the CEO. He notes that ports are still required fees for the general introduction of electric vehicles, whether electric air taxis, boats or ground vehicles.
The company will seek to establish passenger routes between major hubs such as Boston and New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, or shorter routes such as New York City to the Hamptons or routes between the islands of Hawaii.
(Illustration) REGENT develops a flying, electric sea glider with a top speed of 180 miles per hour.
With 9 million US dollars in new seeds, the start-up is currently focusing on a prototype.
“We will be flying a quarter-scale prototype by the end of this year,” said Thalheimer. “The prototype will have a wingspan of about 15 feet and weigh about 400 pounds. We need to make sure it works in representative operating environments such as waves and mixed weather.”
The company is anticipating its first flight in the Boston area, but is looking for a place to conduct tests elsewhere in the harsh New England winters.
Unlike previous generations of tech, Thalheimer says it’s easier than ever to work on a start-up that’s not just about bits and bytes, but atoms as well. Regent tracks the success of robotics and electric vehicle companies like Kiva Robotics, Tesla, DJI, and others.
“The investors were enthusiastic. And we hear from many cities that they are coming here, and we are helping them,” said Thalheimer. “We believe Boston culture is helping us today. We’re in MIT, the Harvard ecosystem. And we have great connections and in the robotics and aerospace scene here.” (Companies such as Raytheon and Draper Laboratory are based in Boston.)
Investors in Regent’s airline ferry business include Caffeinated Capital, an early supporter of the supersonic jet startup Boom, Mark Cuban, Peter Thiel’s start-up fund, Y Combinator, and others.
Caffeinated Capital founder Raymond Tonsing said he saw Regent as the embodiment of the future of electric aircraft.
“Basically, we’re in a transition from using fossil fuels to get from A to B even if you’re not touching the ground. And you know? This is a huge market, and I think Regent has a very good plan in about 4 years passengers will fly. “
The relatively quick go-to-market plan exists not least because the company expects to deal with the rules and regulations that apply to ocean-going vessels, not airplanes, Tonsing said.
It takes longer for a new jet aircraft to be approved to fly passengers. While safety still comes first, a wig flies over waves in the lower airspace. It is not intended to be used to fly over cities, houses and streets.
Investor Mark Cuban said in an email to CNBC, “Time is the most precious commodity that we don’t have. Regent makes so many difficult journeys easy and quick. Its impact will be profound and global.”
While there is no competition developing electric gliders for passengers like Regent, there are some electric and hybrid-electric watercraft companies that may vie for similar contracts or funding in the future.
These companies include other TIG developers, Flying Ship Company and RDC Aqualines, as well as manufacturers of electric vehicle boats such as Pure Watercraft in Seattle, Candela based in Switzerland, and the Wellington Electric Boat Building Company in New Zealand.