June 5, 2024

Why Rhode Island is the perfect place to build seagliders

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  • We chose Rhode Island for our headquarters after an extensive national search.
  • The state offers best-in-nation coastal testing environments, maritime composites expertise, and access to top talent.
  • Rhode Island has the potential to become the epicenter of the Blue Economy.  

When you think of places to build a tech startup, Rhode Island probably isn’t on your list.

The smallest US state, with a population of about 1 million and more beaches than metropolitan areas, may not have the instant access to venture capital or established startup ecosystems found in cities like San Francisco or Austin.  

But on closer look, the Ocean State has just the right combination of features to make it the perfect place to design and manufacture the latest innovation in maritime transportation.  

REGENT was founded outside of Boston in late 2020 with the vision to democratize access to high-speed coastal transportation with all-electric seagliders. As the company grew and interest in seagliders increased, we conducted an extensive national search for a headquarters where we could scale from prototyping startup to manufacturer and worldwide distributor of seagliders.  

Rhode Island’s combination of protected inland test environments throughout Narragansett Bay, access to ocean weather and waves for testing mature products, strong naval architecture and composites expertise, and access to top talent from across New England make it the clear choice. We moved to North Kingstown, RI, in the summer of 2022.  

“Rhode Island was the only place that made sense for us. From diverse coastal testing environments, to world-class maritime composites expertise, to a central location that combines aerospace, defense, and maritime talent, Rhode Island offers a unique combination of factors to enable our team to make seagliders a global success.” — Billy Thalheimer, co-founder and CEO, REGENT  

Accessible coastlines and waterways

Narragansett Bay has both deep waters in protected harbors for early tests and easy access to the open ocean to thoroughly test our float, foil, and fly operations as we mature our technology and deliver seaglider products to customers.  

We successfully flew the first seaglider — our quarter-scale prototype — in 2022, proving its unique design and technology. Beginning this fall, we’ll start conducting tests of the full-scale Viceroy seaglider prototype with humans on board — all just a few minutes away from our HQ.  

Learn more about seagliders here.

Rich history of boatbuilding

Rhode Island is recognized worldwide for its boatbuilding prowess due to its rich maritime history dating back to the 19th century and a tight-knit community of skilled craftsmen and passionate innovators.  

Arguably no region in the world has produced more grand-prix sailing yachts that have raced around the world. From the all-metal "Vigilant," successful America's Cup Defender built in Bristol in 1893, to American Magic’s all-carbon challenger for the 2024 America's Cup built in Portsmouth in 2023, Rhode Island is a worldwide leader in high-end boatbuilding and all the trades that come with it. It’s also the first US point of call for service and upkeep.  

Importantly for REGENT, the composites expertise in the state is unmatched. Building flying machines with boat builders has enabled us to build our prototype seagliders at speeds and costs never seen in the aerospace industry — all while protecting the commitment to safety at the heart of boatbuilding.  

The ability to fabricate unique, salt-water-resistant pieces of the vessel that leverage centuries of boatbuilding expertise will continue to be critical to seagliders’ low operating and maintenance costs when they enter production.    

We partnered with composite fabrication and engineering firm Moore Brothers Company, based in Bristol, to build our Viceroy prototype with support from Ocean State Composites.

We plan to expand our global headquarters in Rhode Island to include up to 600,000 square feet of new manufacturing and test facilities to begin fulfilling $9 billion in commercial orders by mid-decade.

Read more about our partnership with Moore Brothers here

World-class talent

Rhode Island is at the center of a strong industry network in New England, ranging from aerospace and aviation talent at Raytheon, GE Aviation, Aurora Flight Sciences, Honeywell, BAE Systems, Textron, and Pratt & Whitney to defense and naval expertise at the Naval War College, US Coast Guard Academy, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics Electric Boat, to engineering excellence at high-ranked schools and universities across New England.  

Read more about REGENT’s support of the Naval War College Foundation here.  

Our central location in this network not only means we can create competitive, meaningful jobs in Rhode Island, but we can also contribute to local Rhode Island curriculum development to build skills and talent for the future of work.  

“Our goal is to create opportunities for meaningful employment and economic mobility, supporting Rhode Island’s economy and creating the conditions for REGENT to grow.” Susan Hendrix, Head of Talent, REGENT. " — Susan Hendrix, Head of Talent, REGENT    

Explore our open positions here.

Epicenter for the blue economy  

Rhode Island’s economy is highly centered around the maritime industry, which in addition to boatbuilding includes offshore wind energy, defense, and ocean sciences and engineering, among others. Continuing to develop maritime manufacturing and research will reinforce the Ocean State's leadership in advancing the Blue Economy.  

Since arriving in Rhode Island, REGENT has raised more than $90 million in funding and secured more than $9 billion in seaglider orders from commercial and defense operators around the world.  

At the same time, the company has grown to a team of more than 80 employees, attracting top talent from companies including Boeing, SpaceX, GE Aerospace, the US Coast Guard, and the America’s Cup.

“As REGENT continues to grow, we look forward to working with Rhode Island officials to support resilient supply chains, develop necessary infrastructure to expand manufacturing, and attract more start-ups and talent to bring jobs and innovation to the state. Together, we can ensure Rhode Island is not only known for its beautiful beaches but also as the epicenter of the Blue Economy.”  — Billy Thalheimer