In 1967, US intelligence analysts discovered on satellite images a previously unknown structure about 100 meters long. It was therefore initially referred to as the “Caspian Sea Monster”. Later it turned out that it was by no means a mythical creature. Rather, it was the work of Soviet designer Rostislav Evgenievich Alexeyev that the Americans got to see. This had – promoted by Nikita Khrushchev – designed a huge ground effect vehicle called KM. If you like, it’s a cross between an airplane and a ship. Because the construction does not move on water, but neither does it climb to dizzying heights. Instead, it floats a few feet above the water’s surface on a cushion of air. In principle, enormous speeds can be achieved in this way: the Caspian sea monster could reach speeds of up to 500 km/h. So far, however, the technology has not made the big breakthrough.
Eight electric propellers provide the necessary propulsion
The American startup Regent Craft wants to change this in the future. Because the company has developed a ground effect vehicle with an electric drive that is suitable for everyday use. The so-called Seaglider has a total of eight electric propellers, each connected to a 120-kilowatt motor. This is sufficient to reach a speed of almost 300 km/h on the open sea. This is possible because the resistance on the air cushion is significantly lower than when driving directly on the water. According to the manufacturer, the range with fully charged batteries is around 290 kilometers. As with electric cars, this value should not be reached if you drive at full speed all the time. The engineers are also counting on further advances in battery technology. In the future, the Seaglider will even have to travel 800 kilometers without a charging break. A real harbor is also not necessary for boarding and disembarking. A simple pier or jetty is sufficient.
Siemens helps approve the Seaglider
So far, however, there is only a first prototype. This should now be a market-ready product by 2025. At the same time, the state license must be guaranteed. The start-up has received reputable help here and is collaborating with the German Siemens group on this point. The Seaglider was registered as a so-called maritime vehicle. Here, the rules are less strict than, for example, for electric aircraft. The first orders for the ground effect electric vehicle are said to have already been received. The minds behind Regent Craft assume enormous potential anyway. After all, about 40 percent of humanity lives near the coast. In addition, more and more economic activities are taking place on the water. Operators of offshore wind farms can therefore also become customers. Such a fast vehicle could also be of interest to the Coast Guard and the Navy.