Maria Montero

SeaBubbles shows off their flying ‘electric’ boat in Miami

They promised us flying cars, but it turns out that flying boats were easier to build.

SeaBubbles, a new “flying” boat that uses electrical power instead of gasoline, arrives in Miami this weekend to show off one of its five prototype boats, or six, if you have an early white windowless boat, they have. nicknamed with love. “This innovative boat design combines technology from the nautical industries, aviation and smart software to raise the boat’s hull out of the water using sheets, allowing it to consume less energy by allowing it to travel in rougher water with reduced drag. While it also keeps the passenger cabin relatively comfortable.

When it rises, the boat is “flying” over the water, so to speak.

Founded just three years ago in Paris, the idea of ​​SeaBubbles. It was devised by Alain Thébault, a sailor who previously designed and piloted the Hydroptère, an experimental hydrofoil trimaran, using a similar system that lifts the boat to reduce drag. That ship broke the world sailing speed record twice, at 50.17 knots. Meanwhile, SeaBubbles co-founder Anders Bringdal is a four-time world windsurfing champion, who also set a world windsurfing record, at 51.45 knots.

Together, the two have envisioned SeaBubbles as a way for cities to reduce traffic congestion and help the environment by taking advantage of the area’s waterways to move people around in fast water taxis.

“Today’s cities have one thing in common: pollution and congestion,” Bringdal explains. “Every city has waterways, ones that are quite unused. Think of having a giant highway that goes directly to the center of the city, and nobody uses it… why? Bringdal continues.

“You could do this with a normal boat,” he admits. “But with a normal boat with a normal combustion engine, the price of fuel you are paying is between $ 70 and $ 130 per hour. With us, it is $ 2,” he says.

The cost savings come from an all-electric design, which means that the boat is charged at a power station, preferably one that is solar charged, of course, rather than high-drain gas.

The company experimented with all sorts of designs and models before settling on its first SeaBubbles water taxi: a smaller version, 4.5 meters, with capacity for four people in addition to the pilot. However, the technology itself is scalable to larger ships or even ferries.

According to SeaBubbles US partner Daniel Berrebi, whose company Baja Ferries has made a “small” investment in SeaBubbles, even larger ships like his could eventually benefit from the technology.

Beyond his obvious business interest on that front, Berrebi is also working with SeaBubbles to help the company make its first sales in the U.S. He says he sold four boats to individuals in the area, yes it is sold as in “checks in hand and signed on the dotted line”. These buyers don’t want to be named, but they can include well-known names in music. and sports. (Of course, one has to wonder how much anonymity you will actually have when working on Miami’s waterways in one of the few flying boats in existence today.)

SeaBubbles has been able to get to market with its technology so early because it’s not building everything in-house.

The boat motors are from Torqeedo, for example, while the flight-by-wire software to control the boat comes from the flight control systems and foiling, engineer Ricardo Bencatel’s company, 4DC Tech. His software solution also it powered the boats of the America’s Cup teams, such as Artemis Racing and Oracle. But the version that runs on SeaBubbles has custom components to control the unique characteristics of the boat.

“The [SeaBubbles] The ship has three main sensors: it has two altitude sensors to measure the height of the water, then it has a gyroscope, like the one found in cell phones, ”explains Bencatel.