Excessive-Pace ‘Flying Water Taxi’ Zips Throughout San Francisco Bay

Like an airplane, hydrofoils use aerodynamic lift to climb just above the water above a certain speed. This reduces drag, making the craft far more efficient than if it were moving through the waves. Passengers literally fly.

The technology is not new; Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, later constructed a seaplane. But a new startup called Navier (“NAV-ee-ay”) is going a step further, trying to solve the age-old problem of how to efficiently transport people across a lake or bay with sleek, unobtrusive luxury vehicles. flying water taxis.”

The name sounds like a variation of “navigation” or “marine” but is a reference to Claude-Louis Navier, the 19th-century French physicist and engineer whose contributions to fluid mechanics remain central to this field of research. The company is betting on the eventual electrification of all modes of transportation — particularly what Chief Technology Officer Kenny Jensen calls the “marine segment.”

“The thing about boats is that they are ridiculously inefficient. You get a mile a gallon,” he said. “So if you tried to electrify these without changing anything, you’ll either run out of range or you’ll be a giant floating battery.”

The docks at Pier 40 jutting out from the foot of Townsend Street on the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco are an ode to the city’s maritime past, when trade and transportation mostly took place along the coast. However, on a recent visit, The Standard noted that it is also home to Navier’s two current watercraft, one black and one white.

The electric-powered boats were built at a Maine shipyard and have toured Miami, LA and elsewhere. Navier claims a range of 75 miles per charge, which takes around eight hours. Boaters can simply plug into standard marina outlets or use a charger like Tesla makes.

Despite the term ‘water taxi’, Navier’s boats are intended for personal mobility rather than the proverbial Uber of the Seven Seas, carrying six or eight people at a time. You can get from Redwood City to the Embarcadero in 20 minutes or across the bay to the company’s Alameda headquarters.

The ride itself is undeniably cool, a smooth and almost impossibly quiet ride. Technologically, it’s light years beyond the analog ship that could set sail from Sausalito to Hawaii. Passengers zip under the Bay Bridge at 22 knots, looking with no small pity at the comparatively sluggish ferries while Yacht Rock playlists accumulate in the back of their minds.

Admittedly, the $375,000 price tag means hydrofoils are no longer affordable for the average person, but future generations of Navier vessels could disrupt the polluting shipping industry as well as the world of passenger transportation.

Co-founder Sampriti Bhattacharyya comes from aerospace robotics and applied her work to underwater drones – like Jensen she has a PhD. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop this next-generation ship.

“We’re very optimistic about the vision and what it can make possible,” she said. “It’s a game changer.”

There are other small advantages, such as the ability to move relatively quickly in a port where it is forbidden to leave wakes, the ability to operate near coral reefs with less risk of harming sensitive marine life and the risk of seasickness is reduced. Pilots don’t need a driver’s license either, as they pilot and control the throttle while the computer does most of the rest.

A technician once lamented the fact that our timeline gave us 140 characters instead of flying cars, but now we have flying water taxis. Navier plans to have a few more boats in the water by next year, hoping to make an impression by 2035. There is great optimism, but much less when it comes to the boats themselves.

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