REGENT, the company pursuing electric seagliders for sustainable maritime transportation, has announced a strategic investment from Japan Airlines Innovation Fund, the venture arm of Japan Airlines (JAL).  

“This strategic investment speaks to the growing adoption of seaglider technology by major airlines,” said Billy Thalheimer, co-founder and CEO of REGENT.  “At REGENT, we’re at the helm of ushering in a completely new era in sustainable transportation, and  JAL Innovation Fund’s investment gives us the resources and support that we need to unveil an innovative approach for regional travel at lower costs, faster speeds, and zero emissions.”

Seagliders are a new mode of transportation that combines the high speed of an airplane with the low operating cost of a boat. These all-electric, zero-emission vessels operate over the water and leverage existing dock infrastructure to carry people and goods up to 180 miles between coastal destinations.

The REGENT seaglider is an all-electric wing-in-ground effect vehicle, meaning it flies low (within one wingspan) over the water to take advantage of numerous aerodynamic and operational efficiencies, enabling increased payload capability and greater range than other electric aircraft concepts. The seaglider operates in three modes: from the dock, the vehicle first drives on its hull like a traditional boat. As it leaves the harbor area and speeds up, it rises on its retractable hydrofoil, which offers significant wave tolerance and a smooth ride as it leaves a crowded harbor. Upon reaching open water, the vehicle transitions onto its wing, retracting the foil and accelerating up to cruise speed—all while staying within a wingspan of the water’s surface. Driving a seaglider is enabled by coupling advanced digital flight software with simple boat controls.

REGENT has sold over 400 seagliders to date, to global aviation and ferry customers including Mokulele Airlines, Southern Airways Express, FRS (Germany), and Ocean Flyer (New Zealand). With more than $7.5 billion in orders from commercial operating partners around the world, REGENT aims for its 12-passenger seaglider, Viceroy, to enter service by mid-decade.

“We are very pleased to make this investment in REGENT from our CVC, JAL Innovation Fund,” says Yasushi Noda, Executive Officer, Senior Vice President – Digital Innovation at Japan Airlines. “We believe seagliders are a safe, sustainable, and economical solution and we are excited to work with REGENT to assess demand not only in Japan but around the world. We are delighted to add seagliders to JAL’s list of new challenges and are honored to work with REGENT to explore the possibilities of seagliders.” 

In addition to the investment, REGENT and JAL are working together to explore opportunities for ecosystem development, bringing together relevant stakeholders to deliver the benefits of seagliders to new and underserved markets. REGENT’s investors to date include Thiel Capital, Y Combinator, Founders Fund, and Mark Cuban. 

Why it’s important: This investment in REGENT serves as a first step in the exploration of incorporating seagliders into JAL’s global network and highlights its commitment to sustainable transportation. With this investment, REGENT has raised over $45 million to date. REGENT has also furthered its global reach that was substantiated largely by a recent commitment from German ferry operator, FRS, to operate the seagliders. REGENT’s growing portfolio of international customers also includes Ocean Flyer in New Zealand, Split Express in Croatia, and Brittany Ferries in the United Kingdom and France.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz