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Wednesday, June 16, 2021  (Comments: 1)

Brittany Ferries has signed a letter of intent with US company REGENT (Regional Electric Ground Effect Nautical Transport) to explore the potential for a new high-speed, all-electric wing in ground (WIG) effect vessel known as Seaglider.

Through the letter of intent, seagliders with a 50-150 passenger capacity could be operating between the UK and France by 2028. REGENT expects the first commercial passengers to travel on smaller electric craft by 2025. Seagliders can operate at speeds up to 180 mile/hr and offer a range of 180 miles under battery power, with potentialto extend this to 500 miles as battery technology develops. The voyage from Portsmouth to Cherbourg, for example, could be covered in 40 minutes.

WIG effect employs the ground effect cushion created by high-pressure air trapped between wings and the ground or water while flying at low altitude. Seagliders are therefore akin to a hovercraft with wings, rather than a skirt. Following departure from port, the craft rises on foils insulating passengers from wave discomfort. In open waters, it takes off, riding the air cushion all the way to its destination. Wing-mounted propellors provide the thrust to take to the air at low speeds,  while electric motors regulate air flow over wings while riding the air cushion.

For safety, redundant propulsion and flight control systems are employed, with sensors to detect and automatically avoid traffic at sea.

“Seaglider is an attractive and exciting concept and we look forward to working with REGENT in the months and years to come,” said Frédéric Pouget, ports and operations director, Brittany Ferries. “We are particularly pleased to contribute now because it means we can bring real-world challenges and potential applications into the company’s thinking at an early stage. We hope this may help bring commercial success in the years that follow. Who knows; this could be the birth of ferries that fly across the Channel.”

Billy Thalheimer, co-founder and CEO, REGENT, said: “REGENT is excited to partner with Brittany Ferries to bring the future of maritime transportation to market.  Brittany Ferries offers world-class operational experience which will help REGENT ensure that our seagliders will be the most convenient and comfortable form of cross-Channel travel.”

Both Brittany Ferries and REGENT understand that many technological, practical and regulatory milestones lie ahead. However, both companies say that caution should not stand as an impediment to the development of a promising concept that already has a history in military applications and smaller leisure craft.

Seagliders can automatically become greener as more source electricity is generated from renewable sources. And thanks to the inherent efficiency of travelling above water, speed need not be sacrificed to help lower emissions, slow-steaming being one of the solutions proposed for traditional sea-going vehicles to limit environmental footprint.

Reader Comments (1)

Wasn't this principle developed many years ago by the Russians?

By R M Meldrum on Tuesday, June 22, 2021

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