By: Will Kohnen And Colleen Hahn
The design, manufacture, and operation of human-occupied vessels to meet the challenges of extreme ocean environments is led by the Marine Technology Society’s elite Manned Underwater Vehicles (MUV) group. Across several decades, advancements by these companies have impacted space, defense, airborne and other subsea initiatives. New engineering designs leverage the physics of underwater propulsion, new material fabrication (i.e., titanium and carbon fiber), and energy storage, and there have been advances in optical cameras for subsea filming and data capture as well as underwater navigation systems. In 2016, the companies below had significant success in MUV exploration, engineering, design, and technological innovations.
Aquatica Submarines, Canada
Sub: Stingray 500
Aquatica entered the market in 2013 as an operator and manufacturer. Their three-person Stingray 500 is the first in a series of models that has completed a “live drop” to 690 ft for its sea trial with leading classification society DNV-GL in September 2016. Stingray 500 has a small footprint and weighs 8,300 lbs, making it versatile for a wide range of crane types over 4.5 tons. Aquatica submersibles feature a top hatch ingress/egress with a high freeboard and good surface stability to avoid the need for a “man-rated” crane. Two weeks after the sea trial testing, the company completed its first commercial expedition off the coast of Vancouver. The expedition was contracted by the Artificial Reef Society of British Colombia to collect data and imagery while observing artificial reef biomass of the sunken vessel HMCS Annapolis. Aquatica recently completed the design of the Stingray X, a 3,300-ft submersible for the commercial market.
China Ship Scientific Research Center (CSSRC), P.R. China
Sub: Jiaolong, Huan Dao Jiao Long
CSSRC is China's largest ship and ocean engineering research institute with more than 500 research engineers and 22 large-scale test facilities. Founded in 1951, CSSRC's main focus is in the research of ship design, underwater engineering, vibration and noise reduction, and marine and offshore structures. CSSRC's 7,000-m depth rated Jiaolong submersible is the deepest operating manned submersible in the world today. Currently, CSSRC is developing a number of new vehicles, including a 4,500-m rated research MUV for the China Academy of Sciences. In 2016, the shipyard delivered its acrylic-hulled tourism submersibles, the Huan Dao Jiao Long 1 and 2, for operation on Hainan Island.
Sub: Super Falcon, Dragon, Falcon 3S
DeepFlight vehicles are an entirely new class of submersibles that are positively buoyant. The all-electric vehicles apply the principles and dynamics of flight to underwater craft. Considered fast, light, easy to maneuver, and safe, DeepFlight's designs have been compared to futuristic airplanes and Formula 1 racecars. Founded in 1996, DeepFlight has developed five generations of personal submarines focused on the commercial markets of super yachts, luxury resorts, and private ownership.
In September, at the Monaco Yacht Show, DeepFlight introduced the DeepFlight Super Falcon 3S. The new design adds a third cockpit to its flagship vehicle that allows the pilot to take two passengers on underwater flights to 120 m. The submarine will have Lloyds Register classification and be U.S. Coast Guard certified. DeepFlight also announced a new partnership with Shanghai-based Rainbowfish Ocean Technology called DeepFlight Adventures. The partnership will provide piloted submarine excursions from resort locations starting in 2017. DeepFlight. In conjunction with RainbowFish, recently completed a significant expedition in Papua New Guinea where guests were treated to submarine dives on the wreck of the Yokohama Maru.
GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Germany
GEOMAR's JAGO is a 400-m depth rated DNVGL classed two-person submersible. The vehicle is primarily dedicated to exploration and research. The submersible 's relatively lightweight (3 tons) and compact size (3 x 2 x 2.5 m) enable worldwide operations from a wide variety of support ships that have sufficient crane capacity as well as logistically simple transportation in a single 20-ft sea freight container. First built in 1989 by the Max Planck Institute, JAGO is stationed at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research. The sub has made over 1,300 dives, taking more than 600 scientists, engineers, and observers to the seafloor.
JAGO was involved in an expedition with the German research vessel POSEIDON to El Hierro, the youngest and most geologically active volcanoes of the Canary Islands. A team of scientists from GEOMAR, the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and the Instituto Español de Oceanografía used JAGO to inspect a subsea volcano that erupted offshore at a distance of 2 km from the southern tip of the island. The team documented the present stage of the eruption site where warm water is still discharged. They were able to sample hydrothermal fluids, bacteria, and other volcanic products. A second expedition was conducted in the Norwegian Archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean to investigate the role of polar carbonate factories mainly composed of coralline red algae and carbonate-producing invertebrates.
Sub: Nemo and Nomad (Triton 1000/2 models)
GlobalSubDive provides turnkey underwater exploration solutions with access to advanced technical diving teams in over 54 countries. Founded in 2014, GlobalSubDive completed three significant missions in 2016 to support global conservation efforts for Project Baseline. The first, with Miami Waterkeepers, increases the understanding and awareness of coral reef conditions near Port Everglades in advance of a dredging to expand the port. SCUBA divers collected valuable baseline data from 3 km of the Florida Reef Tract surrounding the Port Everglades shipping channel. Renowned explorer and environmental advocate Philippe Cousteau was part of the project and brought international attention to the initiative.
The second expedition teamed with Nekton and a group of leading scientists to execute the first mission of the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey in Bermuda. Two submersibles and 10 technical divers explored and documented five sites at depths between 15 and 300 m with nearly 100 dives conducted in 24 days. The team produced 138 baseline video transects and identified nearly 300 species of coral, sponge, and algae. Along with the participation of scientists, journalists, and media personalities, a UNESCO representative announced the world's first High Seas World Heritage Site, the Sargasso Sea, from inside the MUV.
For GlobalSubDive's third expedition, they partnered with NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries and Office of Exploration and Research and BOEM to conduct laser and photogrammetry surveys of wrecks that sank in battle off of North Carolina in WWI. Submersibles explored the U-576 and Bluefields both at ~240 m depth while technical divers explored the wreck of the YP-389 at 90 m. The work advances NOAA's goal of expanding the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and fosters ongoing collaborations between NOAA and Project Baseline.
ICTINEU Submarins SL, Spain
Founded in 2008, CTINEU designed and built the first research submersible ICTINEU3 in Barcelona, Spain. Rated to 1,200 m, the submersible carries one pilot and two passengers for dive durations of 10 hrs. Main features include the largest acrylic viewport dome in operation, a highly efficient hydrodynamic design, and lightweight, powerful lithium battery modules designed by the company. The ICTINEU 3 was classed by DNVGL, is registered by French Maritime Affairs for operation in European waters, and has completed more than 80 dives between 30 and 1,000 m.
ICTINEU3 completed several nautical archaeology expeditions in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. The Baix Empordà mission led by the Subaquatic Archaeological Centre of Catalonia, CASC, and the Catalan Government agency for underwater archaeology documented, surveyed, and identified new shipwrecks at 100 to 200 m. During the mission, archaeologists discovered three new shipwrecks from the Roman Imperial era. ICTINUE's battery system is a rare reversal where a very specific technology developed for a manned submersible is being transferred to the AUV and offshore industry. The ICTINEU LiPo battery pack is a compact pressure-compensated battery module offering great weight and volume to power ratios and is rated to 6,000 m. ICTINEU has sold multiple packages to vehicles in Asia and North America.
SEAmagine Hydrospace Corporation, USA
Subs: Ocean Pearl, Triumph, Aurora 3/200, Aurora 3/1500, Aurora 3C, Aurora 4/330, Aurora 5/330, Aurora 5/1000, Aurora 6/1000
Founded in 1995, SEAmagine Hydrospace Corporation manufactures and designs two- to six-person manned submersible models with depth rates from 150 to 1,500 m. SEAmagine's submersibles are used for defense, commercial, and scientific research applications. The company 's existing fleet has over 12,000 dives accumulated and been featured in National Geographic, BBC, and other film and media projects. The company has a number of patents focused on underwater vehicle technology and has established a series of industry firsts, including flexible buoyancy and flotation systems, a novel clam shell cabin design, a high surface freeboard design, the first three-person spherical acrylic hull, and reliable external controls for surface handling. SEAmagine submersibles are American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) certified.
This year, SEAmagine delivered the first manned submersible to South America for the Argentine Coast Guard. The two-person Ocean Pearl submersible will be used for law enforcement both at sea and for many remote inland lakes. The custom trailer-compatible design allows great flexibility to easily transport the vehicle from coastal regions to deep remote lakes in the Andes Mountains.
Stanley Submarines, Honduras
Founded by Karl Stanley in 1998, Stanley Submarines currently operates IDABEL, a 915-m depth-rated threeperson submersible focused on scientific research, tourism, and film and media expeditions. Owner operator, Karl Stanley has logged over 2,000 dives, totaling over 5,000 hours.
In 2016, Stanley Submarines conducted over 80 dives, including the filming of six-gill sharks with ZDF German TV and Animal Planet's River Monsters. Filming was also conducted with the Ukrainian travel TV show, Heads and Tails. Dives for science and research were conducted with staff from the University of Michigan in an ongoing project to study Crinoids and with scientists from the Smithsonian to study deepwater fish. One of the farthest tows of the sub to date was a 25-mi round-trip steam at 3 to 4 knots to investigate the site of a plane crash reported to have over 4,000 kilos of cocaine and the co-pilot still aboard.
Submergence Group, LLC, USA & MSUBS Ltd., UK
Sub: S201, S301, S351, MASTT
Founded in 2007, Submergence Group and Msubs Ltd. Provide manned and unmanned submarines and vehicles for defense, research, and commercial sectors. The company 's capabilities include pressure vessel design and construction, control and navigation system integration, HP gas and hydraulics, life support systems, and GRP tooling. Their expertise encompasses mechanical, composites, electrical, and electronic and software design. The worldwide network of engineering and material science resources allows both companies to scale quickly based on project delivery cycles. Msubs recently produced the largest unmanned underwater vehicle in the world, weighing in at 63 tons. At 80 ft (24 m) long, it is used as a submarine tracking target.
Last summer, Lockheed Martin and Submergence Group announced a partnership to build, integrate, test, and deliver up to three dry combat submersibles (DCS) to U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The partnership focuses on a US$166 million awarded contract to supply a new class of combat submersibles that operate at greater depths and with longer endurance. The DSC will support two operators (pilot and navigator) plus up to six swimmers with the ability to lock them out and in.
Triton Submarines, LLC, USA
Subs: TRITON 3300/3, TRITON 1650/3 LP, TRITON 1000/7, TRITON 3300/1 MD, TRITON 1000/2, TRITON 6600/2
Founded in 2008, Triton expanded design and manufacturing operations for 2016 with construction on five new submersibles, including two new models. The Triton 3300/1 MD (minimum displacement) was built for a European client who already owns a Triton 3300/3 and wanted a second submersible to complement their film and documentary capabilities. This one-man vessel can dive to 1,000 m. The new Triton 3300/3 MKII is the sixth in the product line and is a three-man vessel.
The completed Triton 3300/3 MKII was delivered to the client and used in the Sea of Cortez in July. The vessels feature the new single point lifting system, enabling launch and retrieval in a greater variety of sea states. The first of the new compact Triton 1650/3 LP (low profile) submersibles was launched at Monaco and sent to the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Shows and the Blue Ocean Film Festival in St. Petersburg to highlight its flexibility and capability as a film platform. Triton has also begun construction on a second submersible in this model line and will be using this vessel for charter in 2017.
Triton submersibles have been used in numerous research and scientific discovery missions around the world, ranging from Florida surveys to expedition work in the most remote corners of the Pacific. Highlights of these missions include filming the Britannic (sister ship to the Titanic) in the Mediterranean, the first ever manned submersible dives in Antarctica, and the first live footage captured of a giant squid off the coast of Japan.
Uboat Worx, Netherlands
Subs: Super Yacht Sub 3, C-Explorer 3, Cruise Sub, HiPer Sub, C-Researcher
U-Boat Worx, founded by Bert Houtman in 2005, is one of the largest builders of private submarines. The company's models accommodate one to nine people and operate to depths up to 1,700 m. Each U-Boat Worx submersible is designed, engineered, and built to the highest possible safety and engineering standards and registered with DNV-GL.
In 2016, Uboat Worx launched the unique Cruise Sub designed with two large acrylic spheres on either ends. The aerodynamic design of the revolving interior provides passengers the best view possible. The Cruise Sub series can hold five, seven, or nine occupants. Both the Cruise Sub 5 and the Cruise Sub 7 can dive to a depth of 1,140 m. The large passenger capacity makes this sub perfect for tourism or research applications. For deeper applications, U-Boat Worx developed the C-Researcher 3; it is designed for research and can be equipped with a wide array of tools and measurement equipment.