UNH Ocean Seminar

Autonomous Flying Boats: How Technology Can Create a Step Function Change in Marine Vessel Efficiency

Sampriti Bhattacharyya and Reo Baird


Friday, Apr. 23, 2021, 3:10pm

In the past, our waterways were the dominant form of transit for passengers and goods. The advent of the automobile and light rail led to the downfall of our coastal transportation network as bridges and tunnels could whisk passengers across the water cheaper and more efficiently than slow, lumbering steamships.

As congestion in coastal cities keeps increasing we see a variety of new mobility solutions: air taxis, scooters, and so on. Yet, the waterways are a free piece of infrastructure that is severely underutilized as the cost of operating small marine vessels is too high. The cost of operating a small vessel is driven by two cost buckets: fuel and labor. In total, small vessels are 15X more expensive than driving a car.

With today’s technology, it is possible to radically transform the unit economics of running small marine vessels. Electric hydrofoiling technology reduces fuel costs by 90% whereas autonomy eliminates labor cost. This massive cost reduction opens up a whole new range of possibilities for next generation marine vessel applications.

In this talk we shall discuss the evolution of marine transportation, and deep dive into the technology aspects of autonomous electric hydrofoiling boats, and the new opportunities they will create.


Dr. Sampriti Bhattacharyya is a roboticist, founder and CEO of Navier, a Bay Area startup working on technologies for next generation marine vessels. Dr. Bhattacharyya received her Ph.D. at MIT where she worked on design and dynamic modeling of underwater vehicles under hydrodynamic ground effect. Prior to MIT, Sampriti received her Masters in Aerospace Engineering and a bachelors in Electrical Engineering. Bhattacharyya is a Forbes 30 under 30 recipient, and her work has spanned across many fields of engineering—from working on underwater drones (Hydroswarm), marine networks, autonomous flight control at NASA to Accelerator Driven Subcritical Reactors while at Fermilab.

Reo Baird is the CTO of Navier. Baird holds an M.Eng. in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from MIT with a focus on autonomy. He has owned over 35 motor vessels in a variety of types and configurations and has logged over 10,000 ocean miles. And, through his professional experience at McKinsey & Co and Ocean Networks Canada, Reo has engaged on a variety of maritime topics in both recreational and commercial segments.