Designing the Next Generation of WIGs

B. Thalheimer
United States

Keywords: ground-effect, electric aviation, coastal logistics, WIG, electric propulsion, guidance and navigation, hydrofoils, electric transportation


REGENT is developing an all-electric wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) vehicle for high-speed, low-cost regional maritime transportation. Our 180-mph vehicle – the seaglider – will service missions up to 180 miles with existing battery technology and missions up to 500 miles with next-generation batteries, all via existing dock infrastructure. With 100% electric propulsion, seagliders lower operating costs and noise signatures compared to existing aircraft. REGENT's first planned production seaglider is a 12-passenger variant beginning full-scale prototype testing in 2023 and entering service by 2025. REGENT has plans to develop 50+ passenger variants by 2028, and progress to electric aircraft by 2029. The seaglider is a modern take on the 60-year WIG pedigree. WIGs are hybrids between boats and planes and leverage “ground effect” -- a phenomenon that boosts aerodynamic efficiency when flying within a wingspan of a surface. WIGs have decreased reserve energy requirements compared to aircraft because they land on the water and float until cleared to dock, apportioning more energy available for the mission. When considering electric propulsion systems specifically, electric WIGs have double the range of comparable electric aircraft. REGENT’s electric propulsion system is critical. It not only supports carbon reduction goals and lowers operating costs, but enables foil-to-wing takeoff via the “blown wing”. The blown wing consists of propellers along the leading edge of the wing that blow high-speed air over the wing, creating high lift at low speeds, and slowing takeoff speed such that takeoff can be performed from the limited top speeds of hydrofoils. WIGs exist today but have not been commercially viable for several reasons: 1. Poor wave tolerance: Previous WIGs were flying boats that took off from their hulls. Smaller WIGs (