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The world’s first commercially viable “flying” hydrofoil boat has been launched by a Belfast-based maritime engineering company.

Electric-powered hydrofoils, attached to the hull with vertical struts, hoist the boats above the water using the same technology as deployed by America’s Cup racing yachts.

The eco-friendly vessels are then pushed upwards by these underwater wings like a plane on a runway, being driven up and out of the water as they pick up speed.

This doesn’t just enable the boat to travel almost silently as its hull is no longer being forced to part the waves, but it also reduces drag – and thus operating costs – dramatically.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY JUNE 9 Undated handout photo issued by Artemis Technologies of Olympic sailing champion Iain Percy, who is the founder of Artemis Technologies. Maritime engineers have launched a "world first" commercially viable workboat that "flies" above the water using electric powered hydrofoils. Issue date: Thursday June 9, 2022.
Image: Olympic sailing champion Iain Percy heads Artemis Technologies

Artemis Technologies, the company behind the 10-tonne zero-emissions electric boat – which can be recharged in an hour – is headed by the Olympic sailing champion Iain Percy.

It employs 60 people although has plans to create 1,000 jobs in 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 ferry crew members on to larger ships.

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Artemis says its eFoiler propulsion system produces an energy saving of 90% compared to similar boats powered by fossil fuels.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY JUNE 9 Undated handout photo issued by Artemis Technologies of a workboat that was designed and built in Belfast by maritime innovators Artemis Technologies. Maritime engineers have launched a "world first" commercially viable workboat that "flies" above the water using electric powered hydrofoils. Issue date: Thursday June 9, 2022.

The technology is a spin-off of the Artemis Racing team that competed in the America’s Cup, with double Olympic champion Mr Percy a four-time veteran of that yacht race.

“Combining our experience from the worlds of high-performance sailing, motorsports and advanced manufacturing, the electric propulsion system that we’ve designed and developed is an absolute game changer for the industry in terms of range, costs savings and minimal wake created,” said Southampton-born Mr Percy.

“The ride comfort of a hydrofoiling vessel through a large seaway has to be experienced to be believed, offering a completely smooth journey whatever the sea state.

“This will allow engineers in crew transfer vessels or port operations to get to their destination and deliver their services without discomfort.

“This is only the beginning. As our vessels transform the commercial workboat and city-to-city passenger ferry sectors over the coming years, Belfast and the UK will be at the forefront, creating thousands of jobs across the supply chain and heralding a green shipbuilding revolution.

“With the global small boat market worth 70 billion dollars, we are immensely proud to launch our first range of zero-emission vessels for the workboat sector, from which we have already received significant pre-market interest.

“This is a hugely significant milestone not only for us but in global decarbonisation efforts, with the International Maritime Organisation requiring emissions to be halved by 2050.”

EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY JUNE 9 Undated handout photo issued by Artemis Technologies of a workboat that was designed and built in Belfast by maritime innovators Artemis Technologies. Maritime engineers have launched a "world first" commercially viable workboat that "flies" above the water using electric powered hydrofoils. Issue date: Thursday June 9, 2022.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis said Artemis was making a “positive contribution” to the UK’s efforts to cut emissions.

“The talent and expertise at Artemis Technologies is leading the way in maritime decarbonisation and playing an important role in helping Northern Ireland and the UK reach our net zero targets,” he said.

“Artemis is making a positive contribution to the UK’s economy, supporting innovation and job growth through the development of zero-emission technology.

“I am delighted that such amazing technology has been developed in Northern Ireland and to have been able to see the eFoiler technology up close during a recent showcase in Belfast.

“The launch of this range of green vessels by Artemis Technologies is a truly positive step in the fight against climate change.”