Marine

SeaBird claimed to be world's fastest personal submarine - and it doesn't even have a motor

SeaBird claimed to be world's ...
Computer image of the SeaBird personal submarine that is designed to be towed by a surface vessel (tow cable not pictured)
Computer image of the SeaBird personal submarine that is designed to be towed by a surface vessel (tow cable not pictured)
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Computer image of the SeaBird personal submarine that is designed to be towed by a surface vessel (tow cable not pictured)
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Computer image of the SeaBird personal submarine that is designed to be towed by a surface vessel (tow cable not pictured)
The SeaBird is a two-seater submersible designed to be towed by a surface vessel (tow cable not pictured)
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The SeaBird is a two-seater submersible designed to be towed by a surface vessel (tow cable not pictured)
The SeaBird will travel at speeds of up to 25 mph
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The SeaBird will travel at speeds of up to 25 mph
The SeaBird submersible
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The SeaBird submersible
The SeaBird submersible
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The SeaBird submersible
The SeaBird submersible
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The SeaBird submersible
The proof-of-concept SeaBird personal submarine undergoing testing
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The proof-of-concept SeaBird personal submarine undergoing testing

If the amount of personal submarine stories crossing our desks in recent years is any indication, recreational submarines are a burgeoning market. While most personal submarines, such as U-boat Worx's offerings, employ electric motors powered by a rechargeable battery pack, US-based company AquaVenture has taken a different approach to create what it says is the fastest personal submersible available. This is because the SeaBird doesn't pack a propulsion system of its own, but is instead towed through the water by a surface vessel.

AquaVenture says the patent-pending tow system used on the SeaBird essentially delivers the power of an internal combustion engine to an underwater vessel. Pointing out that the fastest personal subs currently available are limited to speeds of less than 10 mph (16 km/h), the company says the SeaBird will be certified to travel at speeds of up to 22 knots (25 mph/40 km/h), both above and below the water's surface.

The SeaBird can be towed on a cable of up to 400 ft (122 m) in length, which allows it to operate in a large cone behind the towing surface vessel. Up to two SeaBirds can be towed from the one surface vessel and AquaVenture says the vehicles can operate to depths of 150 ft (46 m) - however, this can be doubled to 300 ft (91 m) for "certain (non tourism) customers." The SeaBird also provides a habitable atmosphere for 24-72 hours.

The SeaBird submersible
The SeaBird submersible

Controlled via a side-mounted joystick and rudder pedals, the SeaBird is guided by an electrically-actuated 6-hydroplane control system, which AquaVenture says allows it to perform rapid 360-degree rolls, and climb and dive steeper than most roller-coasters. The company also offers the option of a single center-mounted 3-axis control stick in place of the side-mounted joystick and rudder pedals. The electrical system is powered by 24-volt hot-swappable batteries that can swapped out in around five minutes.

The SeaBird's pressure section is constructed from ABS certified steel, with the canopies made from ABS certified Plexiglass and the external faring or shell composed of composite materials - primarily fiberglass with Kevlar at the front for impact protection and in the lower portion of the shell for protection from sea-floor impacts. An energy absorbing crumple zone is designed to protect the sub's pressurized section in the event of a collision, while its positive buoyancy means it will automatically surface if the towing vessel comes to a stop or is disconnected from the SeaBird.

The SeaBird also features a sonar system to display potential underwater hazards in cases of reduced visibility and offers optional extras including leather seats, headliner and trim, custom exterior paint job, wired telemetry system offering the ability to transmit video, GPS and other data in real time between the SeaBird and the surface, additional video monitors, upgraded lighting, and additional sensors, such as water temperature, salinity and sea-state.

The SeaBird submersible
The SeaBird submersible

While a single-seater version is in the works, AquaVenture will initially launch with a two-seater model measuring 21.5 ft (6.5 m) in length, with a maximum diameter of 40.5 in (102.8 cm) and maximum width at the dive planes of 120 in (305 cm) and a dry weight of 6,570 lb (2,980 kg). Without its own propulsion system, the company says the SeaBird will be cheaper than most personal submarines on the market - although you will obviously need to shell out for a surface vessel to tow it if you don't already have one.

Its US$210,000 base retail price includes training for one pilot and a short warranty period that has yet to be finalized. AquaVenture has had the SeaBird in development for over four years and has just recently completed design and testing and begun taking orders.

22 comments
RichardRF
These inventions are useless unless the avrage man and woman can avail of them.Can we please have none elitest price tags
johnnydfred
And my assumption is that the passenger(s) of this giant fishing lure will be able to control the path of their underwater adventure. Without controlling the speed. Running into anything on the sea floor. Baaad idea!
Pat Kelley
Combine the SeaBird submersible with the Jet-Lev remote control propulsion system (big, remote-controlled jet ski), and the submerged vessel now controls the speed and direction of the surface tow system. Of course this needs a TV screen to show where the surface vessel is going, a separate set of controls, and the combined price is now probably near $500K. Definitely a rich person\'s toy. For an affordable \"poor man\'s submersible\" see here: http://www.rqriley.com/aquasub.html
AquaVenture WaterCrafts
@RichardRF: We currently have prospective customers who would like to establish tour companies employing our subs. At our price range, which is an order of magnitude less than the typical personal subs advertised, a tour company will be able to offer tours in the $250-$350 price range -- well within the means of most western tourists. And they will be able to control SeaBird for themselves with a certified pilot in the rear seat.
AquaVenture WaterCrafts
@johnnydfred: SeaBird has a sonar based intercomm to communicate directly with the towing vessel captain, and thus speed is directed by the sub, but that is irrelevant to your concern. It is your path that determines whether you will impact an obstacle, and SeaBird\'s path is controlled directly from either seat with a joystick and rudder pedals. As mentioned above, tourists will dive with a certified instructor in the rear seat who can override the subs controls at anytime. Additionally, there is obstacle avoidance sonar, and operational restrictions that prohibit higher speeds when operating within close proximity to potential obstacles. We would add that SeaBird has begun the process of ABS classification and will not be available for tours until the ABS approval process is complete. ABS approved tourist subs carry a perfect safety record of zero fatalities throughout hundreds of thousands of tourist dives.
Rigby5
The easiest way to add a \"brake\", would be a simple disconnect button, from the tow line. And that is the only way to make something like this safe. Otherwise it is like water skiing with a tow rope that can\'t be dropped. Not a good idea. But otherwise it seems to have value. It is expensive enough so that it will most likely be purchased by those selling the service instead of for individual use. But everyone will want to try it.
Carlos Grados
Keep the submarine ideas coming! The more people want to explore under the surface of rivers, lakes, and seas the better our environment will be understood and cared for. If they could be made for less than $10,000 people would for sure be able to pool their money and buy one as neighbors or as an eco-friendly water enthusiast.
Gargamoth
I would love to own an yacht style submarine, make full use of the ocean, not just float along the top. If I only had funding(sigh)..
AquaVenture WaterCrafts
@Pat Kelley: Please don\'t market for us. It\'s a (roughly) $200,000 vessel not $500,000. You could pull it with the Space shuttle, but that wouldn\'t make SeaBird a $5 billion purchase. Submarine operations are not the same as what is essentially a glass bottom boat in your link. All sub ops require a surface vessel for support to transport the sub to the operational area, to maintain safety equipment, and to clear the surface of obstacles when the sub surfaces. Our concept simply puts the support vessel to work. There is the capability to datalink throttle and steering data to the towing vessel (at a fairly nominal cost), but we believe that unnecessarily increases sub pilot workload and does not add to either recreational or operational value. SeaBird operates at depths down to 300 feet, which is nearly 10 times sea level atmospheric pressure. That\'s 10 times the pressure differential required of the space station. And the ocean\'s saltwater is far more corrosive than outer space. So we have to pay a premium to operate safely in this environment. True, $200,000 is not cheap, but it\'s cheap enough for a tour operator to purchase and then provide reasonably priced rides to those interested.
AquaVenture WaterCrafts
@Rigby5, SeaBird does have a tow release mechanism as well as a hydrodynamic brake. But we would take exception to your waterskiing simile. A water skier must hold onto a tow rope to ski but then must release in the case of a fall. Anyone who has held onto a tow rope after falling knows the joy of getting a high pressure wash of their sinuses -- not the reason waterskis were invented. SeaBird, on the other hand, is designed to withstand tens of thousands of pounds of pressure and can be pulled all day long without any arms getting sore or water traveling up noses. The primary reason for the tow release mechanism is in case the towing vessel were to sink or some similar catastrophic event were to occur -- in general unnecessary for anything but the most dire of emergencies. Thanks for your interest. Send us your email, and we will be happy to notify you where the first tour operation will be established.