BRISTOL, R.I. — The Moore Brothers Company, a composite manufacturing, research, and development firm, will join forces with Boston-based Regent Craft to create a new, cutting-edge seaglider, an innovation that will combine “speed, comfort, and navigation systems of an aircraft with the convenience, maneuverability, and affordability of a boat.”
The all-electric vehicles will be able to transport commercial passengers and cargo with a range of 180 miles at a speed of 180 miles per hour, according to company executives.
Regent Craft, a Boston-based venture-backed company, announced last April its plans to build the seaglider, which will fly along coastal routes operated by airlines, ferry companies, and governments.
The vehicle will provide harbor-to-harbor, overwater transportation at “a fraction of the cost, noise, and emissions” of existing regional transportation modes, like aircraft and ferries.
Samuel Moore, the president of The Moore Brothers Company, said the company started working with Regent on a prototype last summer. The Moore Brothers will expand their plant’s footprint by 5,000 square feet and will be bring on 10 more techs, engineers, lead boat builders, laminators, and general craftsman to help develop the new seaglider.
“These are good-paying jobs here in Rhode Island,” said Moore, who said his company currently employs 18 people. “It makes sense for Regent to be here. There’s a skilled workforce, a good network of vendors and manufacturing partners, and Rhode Island is friendly to boat builders.”
Regent CEO and co-founder Billy Thalheimer said he expects the seaglider to begin transporting passengers by 2025.
Demonstrator flight testing will soon begin in Tampa, to show that the vehicle will be able to handle waves and wind gusts.
Thalheimer said Regent is hoping the seaglider will eventually be used on routes from Boston to New York, Providence to Newport, and Los Angeles to San Francisco.
The vehicle will glide up to 30 feet above the water.
“These are low noise, zero emissions, high tech vehicles with high degrees of reliability and safety,” said Thalheimer in an interview with the Globe. “We’re taking the things that annoy people when traveling — paying money for tickets and taking time to get there — and solving both of them. It’s airplane speed at ferry convenience.”
Thalheimer said the first seaglider will operate under Coast Guard jurisdiction, and will be sold to customers such as Southern Airways Express and others.
Thalheimer said he expects ticket prices for a 12-seat seaglider from Boston to New York to be about $60 to $100 per person. A spot on one of their 100-seat seagliders could cost $25 to $100, he said.
A shorter trip, like from Providence to Newport, would take about 15 to 20 minutes and cost $10 to $30, depending on the number of seats on the vehicle, said Thalheimer.
The prices are far lower than train and plane tickets, he said, adding “It’s a lower cost for consumers buying tickets, and it’s higher margins for operators with less upkeep and maintenance needed.”
The seagliders will also be far less of a hassle for consumers to access, Thalheimer said.
Regent is financed by the Founders Fund, Dallas Mavericks owner and investor Mark Cuban, Fitbit founder James Park, among others.
“The efficiency of coastal transportation will be 100 times greater with Regent. There is no other way to describe it,” said Cuban said in 2021 statement. “The idea of having to get between two coastal points is always stress inducing. Regent changes all that and makes it fast and easy... Passengers will spend less time in transit and more time with their families.”
Instead of dealing with stressful airports or slow-moving street vehicles, seaglider customers would walk through a metal detector, board quickly, and find a seat. It’s a smooth ride, he explained, with plenty of windows and views from each seat. And the time to travel is half of what it would take using other forms of transportation, like trains, ferries, or buses.
Moore said even with the higher shipping and material costs due to the pandemic, building a full-scale prototype by 2023 and seagliders for commercial use by 2025 shouldn’t be a problem for his team.