The deep ocean has always been the exclusive domain of a select group of brave pioneers – marine scientists, wreck divers, treasure salvors – utilizing highly customized, state of the art submersibles that require boatloads of technicians to operate.
With the Deep Flight Super Falcon Hawkes Ocean Technologies in Richmond, California is trying to change all that.
The Super Falcon is the fourth generation of submersibles designed by Hawkes Ocean Technologies. This sporty two-person submersible is built of carbon fiber, Kevlar, aluminum, and titanium. The hull, which is just wide enough for its passengers, is designed to keep its occupants safe and pressurized at nearly 3,000 feet – a guideline that far exceeds the craft’s stated dive limit of 1000ft.
The pilot and co-pilot sit in-line and have 360-degree views through clear, bubble-top hatches made of unbreakable acrylic. A single battery-powered prop drives the Super Falcon through the water at up to 6 knots (about the same speed a dolphin swims) with a range of 20 nautical miles. Unlike its predecessor, the Aviator, the Super Falcon’s engines are buried beneath the craft’s skin to reduce drag and give them more protection.
Dimensions: 21 feet long with a 10-foot wingspan
Weight: 4,000 pounds
Maximum depth: 1,000 feet (safety rated to 3,000 feet)
Power: Lithium-ion batteries feed an electric motor powering a single prop capable of 6 knots (7.5 mph).
Range: 20 nautical miles (17 land miles) per charge
Oxygen supply: 24 hours/ crew of 2.
Price: $1.7 million and up, depending on finishing touches and technologies
But what makes the Super Falcon truly revolutionary is that it doesn’t rely on conventional submersible technologies that use ballast tanks to submerge or surface. Conventional subs are like underwater hot-air balloons, adjusting their buoyancy to ascend or descend, but the Super Falcon actually “flies” through the water similar to the way a plane flies through the air.
Like an airplane, the Super Falcon has wings, ailerons, and a rudders, but the wings are inverted, so as they travel through the water they generating downward “lift,” keeping the slightly buoyant craft beneath the surface. To go deeper, you simply push the joystick control forward and the craft dives. Because of the positive buoyancy, if the Super Falcon ever loses forward movement it simply floats back to the surface.
The Super Falcon, can dive at 320 fpm and climb like a rocket at 600 fpm. In the hands of a trained pilot, the craft can bank through turns, snap rolls, and loops.
Bringing the Deep Ocean to the Filthy-Rich Masses
Past deep ocean submersibles have been one-of-a-kind, custom designed crafts with a particular purpose in mind, like repairing deep water communication lines, or salvaging top secret military hardware. The Super Falcon is billed as “the first fully productionized submersible capable of sub-sea flight” which means that Hawkes Ocean Technologies can duplicate the original for anyone willing to pay the $1.7 million dollar price tag.
The first Super Falcon was built for Bay Area venture capitalist Tom Perkins, founder of Kleiner Perkins Venture Capital. Perkins owns the largest privately-owned sailing yacht in the world, The S/Y Maltese Falcon, (which he is currently selling for $180 million if anyone’s interested). Perkins’ next boat will be a kite-sail-equipped motor yacht specifically designed to transport and support his new submarine.
Check out the video below for a look at Tom Perkin’s first Super Falcon test-drive.
Deep Sea Tourism
Graham Hawkes, founder of Hawkes Ocean Technologies, is now building a second Super Falcon for himself, which he’ll use for his Deep Flight Sub Sea Aviation School, a 3-day course where serious underwater enthusiasts/adventurers are trained and licensed to fly the Deep Flight winged submersible.The cost – a measly $17,000 – a bargain if you compare it to the $200,000 ticket to outer space on Virgin Galactic’s spaceliner SpaceShipTwo.
Ultimately, Hawkes’ mission is to assemble a small fleet of subs to take ordinary people to remote and remarkable ocean destinations.
“Scientists are always the ones who head into the ocean, but I want to take writers and politicians, people who can convey the beauty that is there and perhaps do something to take care of it,” says Hawkes sounding a bit like a modern day Captain Nemo.
To see video footage of the Deep Flight 502 (predecessor to the Super Falcon) in action, as well as an interview with Graham Hawkes, click here.
Check out Hawkes Ocean Technologie’s website at deepflight.com