Revolutionised High Speed Sea-Gliders coming to New Zealand

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.

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"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.

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Sounds kinda like a miniature version of this. It will be interesting to see how this idea plays out!

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300+ mph in ground affect? That honestly sounds like a terrible idea unless I’m missing something.

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This sounds pretty cool

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According to Ocean Flyer Founder, Shah Aslam said that the sea gliders is pretty safe and sustainable during rough seas, “it has capability to float around 10-30m mark, so the waves are high, higher crosswinds, all it does is rides it further up, but all the elements of keeping it sustainable are there! It’s like a plane, acts as a boat.”

I honestly I hadn’t considered the waves, just that speed and altitude is a concern to me. At 330 mph an angle of 3 or 4 degrees down will put you in the water in less than a second. Also I’m not aware of any auto pilot systems designed for flying at 10 m above the ground aside from auto land, let alone at those speeds. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I have some serious doubts unless they plan to often fly higher and the ground effect part is optimistic for good days. To use a figure of speech I wish I used more often in my day to day vocabulary I would eat my hat if this goes through and actually happens, while the premise is neat, there are definitely a lot of hurdles.

So is there actually safety in going so fast so low in that the ground effect is so strong that it persists to solidly cushion you from the surface as long as you keep the speed so high? If that makes any sense? - the speed makes the safety barrier against itself??

Basically once the sea-glider starts floating, it 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. If the sea-glider was to hit the water, it would be by either traction/friction or headwinds due to speed making sea-glider slows down which puts pressure on it’s weight and starts to descend into the water, once in water, refloat’s right up again and regain momentum of speed. Pretty much the same concepts as the America Cup AC25 boat right down below and shows how it flies too.

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