The deal between newly-established New Zealand transport business Ocean Flyer and US aerospace company REGENT whose title is an acronym for “regional electric ground effect naval transport” has signed a deal worth $700 Million for 25 sea-gliders and delivered by 2025.
Ocean Flyer’s $700m deal is for 25 sea gliders: 15 Viceroys, each holding up to 12 passengers, and 10 Monarchs, which can hold up to 100 passengers. The Viceroys would have a range of 290km/180 miles at nearly 290km/h/180mph and the Monarchs could travel up to 800km/497 miles at nearly 540km/h/335mph.
Ocean Flyer Founder, Shah Aslam said sea gliders would be able to travel between Wellington and Christchurch 440-450 km/273-279 miles within an hour for just $60 NZD a seat, or between Auckland and Whangarei 160-170 km/99-105 miles within 30 minutes for $30 NZD.
“This is a gamechanger for Kiwi travellers. Electric seagliders emit no carbon and are just as fast and comfortable as current aviation options. It will also open up options for communities which are currently under-serviced by existing operators, if they are even served at all. This is an extraordinary opportunity to bring competition and choice to Kiwi travellers while doing the right thing by the environment and communities.”
How the Sea-Glider foil’s above the water works:
John Hamilton, a decorated RNZAF officer and former head of Civil Defence, is Air Napier’s operations manager and on board at Ocean Flyer, and says the craft operates in three modes.
It starts off as a boat floating in the water, propelled by electric engines, gains speed and comes up on foils like America’s Cup boats, and as it picks up speed and its wings generate lift, it starts to fly. It’s designed to remain in ground-effect — the mode of aeroplanes at about one to one and a half wingspans above the ground.
"So in our case, this will be about 10 metres off the surface and what happens is that the vortexes which are normally generated by wings, delivering lift are cushioned by the proximity with the ground."This reduces the amount of drag that wings create, which allows the sea gliders to use less horsepower to go faster or further.
The craft would not use energy to climb to high altitudes that traditional aircraft do but has the ability to fly at 500ft if required. Radar altimeters and autopilots make sure that it stays within 10m of the surface but also can look ahead to see where the swells are and what the conditions are like.