Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Underwater aeroplanes: the new toy for the super rich

Renowned submersible designer Graham Hawkes and co-pilot Lee Behel go on a surreal adventure in the DeepFlight Super Falcon submersible.
Using their hydrophones and their wits, our intrepid explorers cruise the underwater valleys of Hawaii in an attempt to capture a whale song.
The DeepFlight Super Falcon submersible was designed, built and operated by Hawkes Ocean Technologies

From The Telegraph (by Lucy Kinder)

The billionaires who crowded into the Monaco yacht show wanted to see more than just Rupert Murdoch's $29.7m superyacht Rosehearty which was recently announced to be up for sale.
They found a new gadget to play with - the DeepFlight Super Falcon underwater aeroplane.
The founder of Red Bull Dietrich Mateschitz bought one last month at a cost of $1.7 million and he joins venture capitalist Thomas Perkins, once owner of the world's biggest yacht.
Its designer is London-born marine engineer Graham Hawkes who creates submersibles that look like they should come straight out of a James Bond film.
In fact one of his designs, the Mantis, was used in 'For Your Eyes Only'.

 Graham Hawkes, the designer of DeepFlight, cruising and diving with Sir Richard Branson, rear, off Guadalupe Island 
Photo: Amos Nachoum

Hawkes originally built what he describes as "normal" submersibles for the oil and gas industry, and for the military, before realising that he could develop the technology to fly underwater.
Built with 8.8 feet wide wings, and able to go to a depth of 1600 feet the Super Falcon can 'fly' underwater using a "downward lift" motion rather than sinking and rising like traditional submarines.
The craft is able to stay positively buoyant despite travelling at depth at a speed of four to five knots.
If the engines are turned off (or it crashes) it simply floats back up to the surface.
Hawkes says that unlike more conventional submarines the Super Falcon is incredibly quiet so it attracts sea life rather than scares it away.

The Monaco yacht show was the first time the Super Falcons have been marketed to the public and Hawkes said there is already "considerable" interest from potential buyers.
"These are very wealthy individuals getting extraordinary machines that can go and do really cool things."
The Super Falcon takes two people - although Hawkes says potential owners can order a three person model.
Richard Branson has already bought one of Hawkes' creations for his own personal use, as well as taking on the DeepFlight Challenger, a submarine designed to travel to the deepest depths of the ocean.
The Challenger was originally designed for Steve Fossett but after he died in 2007 Branson took on the project.
Ultimately James Cameron beat Branson's team and became the first human to venture to the deepest point of the ocean solo.
For those who don't have enough zeros on the end of their pay packet to buy one Hawkes does charter out the Super Falcon at a cost of $10,000 per day.
King Abdullah II of Jordan hired it for six weeks and invited local dignitaries, as well as schoolchildren, aboard.

 Deepflight's cockpit 
photo David Bush

Pilot training programmes cost $15,000 for three days and it's Hawkes himself who issues the certificates.
He says the fact that underwater flying is such a new enterprise makes it much harder to regulate:
"In the early years of aeroplanes nobody had licenses, nobody knew what the regulations were so we are right in that era of starting up something so new that nobody really knows what needs to be done.
"The rules and regulations are a little bit murky."

When Hawkes and Richard Branson took a dive in it last year they came face to face with a great white shark whose fin was just inches from the Super Falcon's wing.
Hawkes said: "There was some risk, we had discussed that. Nobody really knew what was going to happen.
"When you do things for the first time you really don’t know what to expect."
"She certainly could have chewed off a wing but we didn’t think she could really harm us."

The vehicle is equipped with emergency 'gas bags' to enable it to surface quickly and 24 hours of life support, although the batteries that operate it only have enough energy for eight hours.
Hawkes is hoping, eventually that the underwater plane will be seen at luxury resorts since it does not necessarily require s launch vehicle.
He does concede that the biggest market is among superyacht owners.
Having a giant yacht is apparently no longer enough for the world's wealthiest individuals- they want to do more exciting activities.
Hawkes has some competition.

He may be the only engineer flying underwater but there were three other submarine vendors at the Monaco yacht show this year - all for the first time.

C-Explorer 2 submersible with 100 meter depth-rating diving near Gozo Island.

In July the Netherlands-based U-boat Worx took Russian President Vladimir Putin to sea a shipwreck in the Gulf of Finland using one of their submersibles.
Their models can hold between two and five people and sink to between 100m and 1 000m underwater.

Triton's efforts to complete the Triton 36000/3 Full Ocean Depth Submersible.

Rival Triton is manufacturing similar craft.

But none of these, says Hawkes, resemble aeroplanes and allow their pilots to play with animals.
"The Super Falcon is built for incredible new encounters, and we are having them. Most people have never been able to experience anything like it before."

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