The world’s first commercially viable “flying” hydrofoil has been launched by a Belfast-based marine engineering company.
Electric hydrofoils, attached to the hull by vertical struts, hoist the boats above the water using the same technology deployed by the America’s Cup racing yachts.
The eco-friendly ships are then pushed upwards by these underwater wings like an airplane on a runway, being propelled up and out of the water as they pick up speed.
This not only allows the boat to travel almost silently as its hull is no longer forced to part waves, but it also reduces drag – and therefore operating costs – dramatically.
Artemis Technologies, the company behind the 10-ton zero-emission electric boat – which can be recharged in an hour – is run by Olympic sailing champion Iain Percy.
It employs 60 people but expects to create 1,000 jobs over the next decade.
Each boat can carry 12 passengers and has a top speed of 34 knots and a range of 60 nautical miles. They can be used as workboats or to transport crew members on larger vessels.
Artemis claims that its eFoiler propulsion system produces a 90% energy saving compared to similar boats powered by fossil fuels.
The technology is a spin-off of the Artemis Racing team which competed in the America’s Cup, with two-time Olympic champion Mr. Percy, a four-time veteran of this yacht race.
“Combining our experience from the worlds of high performance sailing, powersports and advanced manufacturing, the electric propulsion system we have designed and developed is an absolute game changer for the industry in terms of range, ‘cost savings and minimal wake created,’ said Southampton-born Mr Percy.
“The comfort of riding a hydrofoil across a major sea lane has to be experienced to be believed, providing a totally smooth journey whatever the sea state.
“This will allow engineers from crew transfer vessels or port operations to arrive at their destination and provide their services without hindrance.
“This is just the beginning. As our ships transform the commercial workboat and city-to-city passenger ferry sectors over the next few years, Belfast and the UK will be at the forefront, creating thousands of supply chain jobs and heralding a green shipbuilding revolution.
“With a global small boat market worth $70 billion, we are extremely proud to launch our first line of zero-emission vessels for the workboat sector, which we have already generated significant pre-market interest. .
“This is a hugely important step not only for us, but also in global decarbonization efforts, with the International Maritime Organization calling for emissions to be halved by 2050.”
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said Artemis was making a “positive contribution” to the UK’s efforts to cut emissions.
“The talent and expertise of Artemis Technologies is leading the way in maritime decarbonisation and playing an important role in helping Northern Ireland and the UK achieve our net zero targets,” he said.
“Artemis makes a positive contribution to the UK economy, supporting innovation and job growth through the development of zero-emissions technology.
“I am delighted that such amazing technology has been developed in Northern Ireland and to have seen the eFoiler technology up close at a recent showcase in Belfast.
“The launch of this range of green ships by Artemis Technologies is a really positive step in the fight against climate change.”