Regent Sets Sights on Flying Electric Seagliders Across Japan's Waterways

Regent, a startup specializing in electric seaglider technology for both passenger and cargo transportation, has successfully secured a $60 million venture funding round and formed a strategic partnership with Japan Airlines. Their objective is to explore the deployment of Regent's electric seaglider ferries in Japan's extensive network of waterways.

The series A funding round for Regent was co-led by venture fund 8090 Industries and Founders Fund, a venture capital firm associated with Peter Thiel. Japan Airlines Innovation Fund and Point72 Ventures were among the other participants. This latest funding round has brought Regent's total capital raised to an impressive $90 million, as confirmed by co-founder and CEO Billy Thalheimer.
Regent has achieved two significant milestones in the field of sustainable transportation. As previously reported by CNBC, the company successfully built a quarter-scale prototype and conducted a series of test flights over Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay late last year. These tests demonstrated the capabilities of Regent's seagliders, technically known as wing-in-ground-effect craft (WIGs), to "float, foil, and fly" as anticipated. The prototype was able to exit a harbor at a slow speed before launching into the air at approximately 40 mph, flying at an altitude of around 10 feet above the open ocean, reaching speeds of approximately 50 mph under various travel-safe weather conditions.

The commercial version of their battery-powered 12-seater seaglider, named the Viceroy, is expected to fly at higher altitudes above the water at speeds of up to 180 mph. The Viceroy's battery will offer a range of approximately 180 miles.

Regent has also recently constructed a full-scale mockup of the Viceroy and established a "sim room" at its headquarters where visitors can sit in a mock cockpit and experience virtual flights over any chosen waterway. Thalheimer stated, "You can build as many decks or pitches as you want, but this is the experience that unlocks excitement."

In the future, travelers should be able to board Regent seagliders at docks, similar to traditional ferries or water taxis. Beyond passenger travel in coastal communities, Regent intends to sell seagliders to organizations engaged in cargo transport, search and rescue, offshore logistics, security, and defense services.

Several airlines and ferry operators, including Mesa Airlines, Brittany Ferries, and FRS, have already committed to purchasing Regent's seagliders. The company has reported orders for more than 500 seagliders, representing potential revenue of approximately $8 billion. Southern Airways is poised to be the first recipient of the production Viceroy, which it plans to operate under its Mokulele Airlines brand, servicing inter-island routes throughout Hawaii.

The newly acquired funding will be used by Regent for hiring, as well as for the development and testing of full-scale prototypes of the Viceroy, along with the implementation of all safety systems necessary for passenger operations, according to Thalheimer. The company currently boasts a workforce of 55 full-time employees and has successfully attracted talent from reputable organizations such as SpaceX and Bureau Veritas, a leading international ship and vessel regulatory body.

In the long term, Regent is also in the early design stages of a 100-seat seaglider named the Monarch. Taking into account regulatory approvals, Regent anticipates that its 12-seat Viceroy seagliders will enter production and service within two to three years, while the larger Monarch seagliders are expected to be in operation by 2030.

Rayyan Islam, general partner at 8090 Industries, who co-led the series A investment in Regent, emphasized his firm's support for the startup due to the high demand for seagliders and the early success of Regent's Viceroy prototype. Islam envisions a new industrial revolution marked by the necessity for every sector to prioritize "decarbonization" in a financially sustainable manner. Regent's seagliders, he believes, have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from short-haul aviation flights and other emissions from ferries and water taxis, which typically rely on diesel, while complementing existing infrastructure. Islam also sees Regent's seagliders playing a role in transporting people and equipment to support various offshore energy developments, from aging oil rigs to massive wind turbines.