A new company that is developing low-cost electric seagliders for commercial and defense markets on Wednesday said it has received a strategic investment from Lockheed Martin’s [LMT] venture arm, raising total investments in REGENT to just over $50 million since its founding just over two years ago.

The investment by Lockheed Martin Ventures will be primarily be used in the development of Rhode Island-based REGENT’s full-scale prototype of its Viceroy seaglider, which will carry 12 passengers and two crewmembers or 3,500-pounds in a cargo configuration up to 180 miles in an hour in maritime routes.

Lockheed Martin’s position and experience working with the Department of Defense will also benefit REGENT as it brings products to market, Billy Thalheimer, co-founder and CEO of REGENT, told Defense Daily in an interview before the announcement of the investment.

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“We believe that REGENT seagliders can bring tailored solutions to the future battlespace,” Chris Moran, head of Lockheed Martin Ventures, said in a statement. “This investment reflects our commitment to innovating technologies that have the potential to transform the way we adapt to our customer’s needs and support mission success.”

REGENT last summer in Narragansett Bay conducted a series of unmanned, remotely-operated flight-tests with a quarter-scale prototype of its seaglider technology, which has a gull-wing, hydrofoils and eight electric motors and propellers. The seaglider uses existing docks and flies within a wingspan of the water. When leaving or approaching a dock, the vehicle rides in the water like a boat. As it speeds up, it rises on its hydrofoil and then takes flight and accelerates to cruise speed.

“It is the first vehicle to combine the wave tolerance and maneuverability of hydro-foiling with the high-speed of flight, so we proved it there,” Thalheimer said. “The next step for us is full-sizing and putting a human onboard.”

Flight-testing of the full-size vehicle, which will have a 60-foot wingspan, is expected by the end of 2024. Flight-testing will be preceded in mid-2024 with floating and foiling testing. REGENT expects that Viceroy deliveries would begin one to two years after flight-testing begins.

Thalheimer said there are a number of potential defense applications for the seaglider with the initial focus being high-speed logistics for the Marine Corps between island chains in an expeditionary environment. The vehicle offers low observability, operating above sonar and “potentially below long-range radar, at least in the surface clutter,” he said.

REGENT has a cooperative research and development agreement with U.S. Special Operations Command to conduct signature analysis and management of the seaglider platform, Thalheimer said.

Other defense applications could include for communications relay and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), he said.

There is also interest in the quarter-scale technology demonstrator from Lockheed Martin and other DoD entities as an unmanned product for communications relay and ISR applications, he said.

Flight-testing of the technology demonstrator has continued to explore uses in different weather and maritime conditions.

REGENT sees its seaglider technology evolving into a family of systems. The company is eyeing a larger vehicle called Monarch by the end of the decade that would carry 100 passengers or 25,000 pounds of cargo.

The company is currently approaching 40 employees with plans to double that in a year, Thalheimer said.

Orders for the yet-to-be-built Viceroy and Monarch have been pouring in. REGENT said it has more than $7.9 billion in orders, split about 50-50 between the two models, for over 400 seagliders. Customers include Mokulele Airlines, Southern Airways Express, Germany’s FRS, and New Zealand’s Ocean Flyer.

Thalheimer said the operating cost REGENT’s seagliders pales compared to those of military aircraft. He put the cost per flight hour of a Marine Corps CH-53K helicopter at around $45,000 versus less than $1,000 for Viceroy.