Condor looks to future with seaglider interest

CONDOR has registered its interest in ‘flying ferry’ technology, but has warned that the idea is in its early days.

An impression of what the seaglider could look like, alongside the Normandie Express, which has since been rebranded as Condor Voyager and is being used by Condor this summer.
An impression of what the seaglider could look like, alongside the Normandie Express, which has since been rebranded as Condor Voyager and is being used by Condor this summer.

The technology has hit the news after Brittany Ferries – one of the owners of Condor – confirmed it was looking to use the electric, sea-skimming machines.

They would seat up to 150 people and could do the journey from Portsmouth to Cherbourg, which is about the same distance as Portsmouth to Alderney, in 40 minutes.

If everything goes to plan, they could be ready to carry passengers by 2028.

Condor currently relies on two conventional ferries – the Goodwill for freight and the Clipper for freight and passengers – and passenger-only fast ferries Rapide, Liberation and Voyager, which it has leased from Brittany Ferries this year.

‘Condor Ferries registered its interest in this concept with the technology developer some months ago, however it is very early days as yet,’ said a spokesman.

The craft are under development in the United States through Boston-based start-up Regent.

The company expects the first commercial passengers to travel on smaller electric craft by 2025.

The craft could fly up to 180mph, six times faster than conventional ferries, with a battery-powered range of 180 miles.

They work by harnessing ground effect. This is the cushion created by high-pressure air trapped between wings and the ground or water while flying at low altitude. Sea gliders are akin to a hovercraft with wings, rather than a skirt.

Following departure from port, the craft rises on foils insulating passengers from wave discomfort. In open waters, it takes off, riding the air cushion all the way to its destination. Wing-mounted propellers provide the thrust to take to the air at low speeds, while electric motors regulate air flow over wings while riding the air cushion.

Power will come from batteries rather than fossil fuel.

Sensors would detect and automatically avoid traffic at sea.

Brittany Ferries has said the craft are key to its recovery post-Covid.

‘Seaglider is an attractive and exciting concept and we look forward to working with Regent in the months and years to come,’ said Frederic Pouget, ports and operations director for Brittany Ferries.

‘We are particularly pleased to contribute now because it means we can bring real-world challenges and potential applications into the company’s thinking at an early stage. We hope this may help bring commercial success in the years that follow. Who knows, this could be the birth of ferries that fly across the Channel?’

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