Deep Flight EV
By Lisa Sonne
Editor's note: Ms. Sonne has graciously permitted EV World to reprint her article, which first appeared in Techcentralstation.com. We plan to follow up on this electric submersible in a future edition of EV World to learn more about its facinating technology.
Imagine strapping into a cockpit, tilting the nose down and flying underwater - swooping through the sea with seals and dolphins, and banking around an ancient shipwreck. You are at the controls as you barrel roll through the water then descend to depths where the only light is the bioluminescent glow you create when you glide along in liquid space. Through your clear helmet dome, you are face-to-face with creatures of the deep never seen before.
Fantasy approached reality last Thursday when the "Deep Flight Aviator" was unveiled for the public. Christened "The Spirit of Patrick" at Pier 15 at the San Francisco Bay, the winged, two person, electric battery operated submersible acts more like a plane than a traditional submarine that sinks and rises like a hot air balloon. It even promises to do "hydrobatics." And the Aviator's got the "cheaper, faster, lighter, more gorgeous" elements most folks like in machine evolution.
The crafts' potential for ocean exploration, recreation, and filming hung in the air as tantalizingly as the sleek blue craft did before being lowered by crane into the murky Bay. A buzzing crowd of media and well wishers looked on at the latest H.O.T. stuff (as in Hawkes Ocean Technologies, the company that built the new craft.)
"This is probably a more historic moment than anybody has any idea," said Dr. Fred McLaren, an instrument-rated pilot and highly distinguished submariner who calculates he has spent five years of his life underwater. "This combines the best of the airplane and the submersible. It's a new species that is infinitely more maneuverable than anything else. There's nothing else like it."
The renowned inventor, Graham Hawkes, piloted his craft as it undulated in and out of the water surface like a gentle dolphin. Hawkes is keenly motivated to further the knowledge of "this planet that we have misnamed Earth. Over two thirds of the surface is water and the average depth is 14,000 feet. Ninety four percent of life on this planet is in the water."
His co-pilot in the second bubble dome of Aviator, Brian Power, an original investor, wants "to go where no man has gone before - on a budget." He smiles in his Deep Flight suit with "First to Fly" across the front. Another partner in SPIRIT OF ADVENTURES Ltd, Dr. Gerard Seery, is "convinced that the Aviator will be a landmark in deep sea exploration comparable to breaking the sound barrier in aviation."
The first people to see if they have the "Right Stuff" for this human access innovation will be in the Bahamas next month for the "World's First Underwater Flight School." Unlike explorers of space who are an elite, government-sponsored core, these first twelve "sub aviator wannabes" are private citizens paying their own way to train to be co-pilots. They signed up for a variety of reasons.
An emergency room physician from Tennessee, Dr Todd Mumpower is excited that the sub won't be tethered to a mother ship like other submersibles: "You are on your own, flying by the seat of the pants like in the emergency room - that's a lot of adrenaline. "
Lesley Ewing, a coastal engineer from California, is the first woman to train for a license. As the 7th person to sign up, she will be "007" while flying in this Bondsian-looking craft through the Bahamian waters where the Bond movie "Never Say Never Again" was filmed.
She wants all her 007 adventures to be scientific aiming to overcome the evils of Dr. Not Know. "So much of the ocean is unknown to us. This sub is so fast and maneuverable. We'll be able to fill in gaps we don't even know we have, and fix maps that are wrong."
Graham's full partner in marriage and business, Karen Hawkes, hopes the sub can sustain itself as a viable business. Personally, she hopes she and Graham can enjoy some unique treasure-hunting as a duo in the deep. The couple loves ocean archeology.
Morton Beebe, renowned photographer, will have been in the Amazon jungles and Antarctic cold for the Explorers Club for the months before his voyage in tropical waters. He looks forward to testing a state of the art camera that has not yet been released to the public. He also anticipates carrying on - and down - the family name first made famous in the early historic descents to the deep in bathyspheres.
A real estate developer from Southern California, John Jo Lewis, signed on because he loves amateur exploration and doubts that outer space will be accessible to him in his lifetime, but now the deep ocean could be. The scuba diver enthuses, "There are incredible things down there that nobody has seen. You really can't in other submersibles that go slowly and make so much noise that everything runs away."
Karen Hawkes says her husband's favorite analogy about studying and filming marine animals in a regular submersible with bright lights "is like marching into the jungle with a band. Only the stupid and slow animals will be around to see."
With the Deep Flight Aviator's stealth and some cutting edge "biophotonics" work to see life in the dark, Hawkes thinks future sub-aviation could be the best way to find the elusive Giant Squid. He surmises that "with a fifteen inch eyeball" the Squid may have had aversions to the blinding lights of previous subs. For McLaren, " the Holy Grail " is searching for pre-Columbian artifacts off the Americas.
Hawkes credits his sponsor AUTODESK's Inventor software for making it much easier to get from idea to reality than in the past. Hawkes has invented or engineered hundreds of "manned and unmanned undersea vehicles." This time he had more fun: "Inventor lets you work in 3D which isn't just more efficient, it unlocks the mind. You never have to painfully chop concepts down to 2D. Aviator was mostly done with Inventor and two engineers. How many engineers would it have taken NASA?"
Hawkes also asks everyone at the event - future pilots, press and the public - to remember that "we came from the sea," when he recites T.S. Eliot:
|We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring shall be to return where we started, and know the place for the first time through the unknown remembered gate where the last of earth to be discovered is that which is the first.|
"We build machines that can fly through that gate," concluded Hawkes.
His latest machine, at 22' long and 4,500 pounds, is currently on an Interstate somewhere on its way to Florida, and then the Bahamas. Next month the real sea trails begin for the sub and the aviators in training.
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