People traveling between cities like New York and Boston know how frustratingly long and inefficient those trips can seem on regional airlines and trains. Driving can be even worse. But such commuters may be a step closer to faster travel on coastal routes.
Regent Craft Inc., a Boston company that is developing plane-boat hybrids called seagliders for transport between coastal cities and islands, said Tuesday that airline company Mesa Air Group (NASDAQ: MESA) plans to buy 200 of its vehicles.
The agreement is part of a round of funding from Mesa, Thiel Capital, JAM Fund and others, Regent says. As part of a broad plan to “help decarbonize air travel through the use of electric aircraft,” Mesa has also partnered with eVTOL developer Archer Aviation (NYSE: ACHR) and Heart Aerospace, which is developing a 19-seat electric commuter plane.
Earlier this year, Regent said it began working with Moore Brothers Co., a maker of composite boat components, to develop and build its vehicles.
Seagliders are known as WIGs, or wing-in-ground effect vehicles. That means they travel over land or water at a height not greater than their wingspans. Within that distance, drag decreases and lift increases. One effect of this is that WIGs can carry heavier loads than airplanes of similar size while traveling almost as fast, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.
The craft combines a boat-like hull with hydrofoils and wings for transitioning from floating to flying. After leaving the dock like a boat, it accelerates and rises onto foils, which allow it to go fast enough to rise off the water but remain in ground effect.
Regent says its seagliders will cruise at 180 mph for distances up to 180 miles using batteries available now, and as far as 500 miles as battery technology advances. The company also says they will generate far less noise and emissions than the ferries and aircraft that currently serve coastal routes.