REGENT Lands Strategic Investment From Japan Airlines
REGENT, the Rhode Island-based startup developing an all-electric seaglider, has secured a strategic investment from Japan Airlines (JAL), the two companies announced on Jan. 26.
The investment was made by the Japan Airlines Translink Innovation Fund, a strategic fund meant to identify potential business lines for JAL to expand into. While the companies declined to disclose the dollar amount of the investment, REGENT said the latest infusion lifted its total fundraising to date to $45 million.
In addition to the investment, the two companies are collaborating to explore opportunities to incorporate REGENT’s Viceroy seaglider into JAL’s existing fleet and network.
“The work will center around examining how seagliders can make sense both in Japan and other island chains where JAL is operating,” REGENT CEO Billy Thalheimer says. “The next steps will involve us getting into the details of the routes, the economics, the docks and the training, etc.”
While the investment from JAL did not include any conditional orders, Thalheimer said the deal should “absolutely” be viewed as something that could lead to a future order.
“This is a large international carrier with a massive fleet, and there is an extremely high bar as it pertains to actually getting orders, so we feel this is the best way to start,” Thalheimer says. “It is a strategic investment–but the strategic aspect is felt strongly on both sides. We’re super excited to start working with JAL and fleshing out this concept.”
REGENT’s Viceroy is being designed as a 12-passenger vehicle that operates exclusively over water in three modes: hull, hydrofoil or flight in ground effect. In hull mode, the vehicles would be floating at the docks like a ferry until they leave the marina, at which point they transition to hydrofoil mode and lift approximately 5 ft. from the water while maneuvering through harbors and riverways at speeds between 20 and 50 mph. Once the vehicle reaches open water, it can take off and glide above the waterline at a height of approximately 30 ft. using wing in ground effect to reach speeds up to 180 mph with thrust created by eight electrically driven propellers, or four under each wing.
“The key technical unlock of the seaglider is that we can overlap the fastest you can possibly hydrofoil with the slowest you can possibly get on a wing,” Thalheimer explains. “We’re taking off and landing on the periphery of harbors where we’re going to be transitioning from the foil to the flight modes.”
Because the Viceroy will only be operating above water and not in airspace, the vehicle does not require certification from the FAA to enter service. Instead, the company is certifying it domestically with the U.S. Coast Guard rules for maritime vessels, and through the Bureau Veritas certification organization for international use.
“This is a boat, not an aircraft,” Thalheimer says. “Our vessel does dock-to-dock operations over water only, never dealing with airspace. As long as we’re staying in ground effect within a wingspan of the water, we can certify through the Coast Guard.”
REGENT is currently assembling its full-scale prototype, which Thalheimer says could begin testing on water by mid-2024, with humans on board by the end of next year. The company had previously developed a quarter-scale model that included all of the main systems to be used on the full-scale prototype.