Frequently asked questions
Give us a call if you would like to discuss how we can get you started on your personal sub experience.
Our submarines carry 3 people.
Our subs are rated for 130 feet (40 meters).
The length of the dive is dependent on depth and air supply, with a maximum dive time of about 2 hours.
Unlike a closed hatch system, SportSub passengers remain a part of the water environment. They swim through an entrance in the back of the sub and emerge in a comfortable breathable air pocket within the cockpit. Safely tucked inside the sub, each explorer has unobstructed views in all directions, including straight down. The dashboard and control panel are also above the water level and easily accessible. This system is unique and offers a surprising number of advantages over traditional lock-out systems. Once you try this awesome ambient pressure experience, you'll understand the beauty of the unique design!
Find out some of the reasons here...
safety and technology
The SportSub was designed and is built with safety as the number one priority. Safety systems include:
- Backup up air system
- Manual cockpit air system
- Loss of power surface system
- Lead drop weights
- Removable air tank with 3 breathing regulators
- Buoyancy control override and swim exit
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Safety is a major consideration in every aspect of the SportSub design. Starting with a hull that isn’t required to contain enormous pressure makes this task a lot easier. No submersible is safe unless it is operated within its design limits by well trained pilots, but the ambient pressure principle is somewhat more forgiving of errors. The two principal safety advantages of the SportSub design over a One Atmosphere design are; the hull can never be crushed by external water pressure, and, occupants can readily escape from the SportSub by swimming out, then up to the surface. These are, of course, worst-case scenarios but it is a relief not to have to dread the slightest leak.
The SportSub has many safety features and backup systems to prevent resorting to a swimming escape. If the operator runs out of air or has an air supply malfunction there is a complete redundant air supply system that can be engaged with the simple turn of a valve in the cockpit. Even if all air supplies are exhausted the SportSub can surface on electrically powered thrusters alone. If electrical energy is depleted, pressurized air can be added manually to cause a controlled ascent. There are two separate ballast tanks, in addition to the cockpit, where air can be added manually to increase the buoyancy. In the unthinkable event that electrical systems and both air supply systems fail simultaneously it is still possible to cause the SportSub to surface by manually dropping lead ballast bars. If all else fails, and a swimming ascent is required, a complete SCUBA breathing system is supplied for each occupant. These can be removed from the sub and carried while swimming to the surface.
Entry and exit from the SportSub is accomplished by swimming through the lower aft opening that remains open throughout the dive. Having to enter the sub by swimming into the cockpit is a nice way to help prevent passengers from taking a ride if they aren’t comfortable under water. This gives the operator some confidence that passengers will be capable of handling a worst case emergency situation.
The SportSub has to maneuver in two dimensions while on the surface, and in three dimensions while submerged. It moves forward, backward, up, down, and can even hover and turn on the spot, a lot like the maneuverability of a helicopter.
All maneuvering is accomplished with only two thrusters, built in to the dive plains, and two control handles. The thrusters are located so that their center of thrust is at the same height on the hull as its center of drag, so there is no tendency to nose up or down with changes in thrust. The hull design also ensures that the dive plain position is below the water line when the SportSub is high on the surface.
One of the pilot’s hands controls the speed and direction of both thrusters simultaneously, using a single joystick. Each thruster’s speed is continuously variable from full forward to full reverse thrust. The pilot’s other hand controls the up and down angle of the dive plains, which direct the thrust and provide hydrodynamic force if the sub has forward speed. By combining different thrust and angle combinations, very precise control is accomplished in all directions.
No – All of our subs come with an Auto Buoyancy Control that regulates your buoyancy.
Electronic buoyancy control
This system is the true key to the success of the SportSub design. Without automatic buoyancy control, the pilot of an ambient pressure submersible would be too busy adjusting buoyancy to safely navigate and enjoy the dive experience. Dangerously fast descents and ascents could occur if the pilot ever lost control. The SportSub’s automatic buoyancy control system keeps buoyancy constant throughout a dive, regardless of depth.
The pilot initially sets neutral buoyancy manually, since it is different with each set of passengers because they have a different combined weight. Once neutral buoyancy is set, the system is switched to automatic and the electronic system takes over. As it senses compression, while the sub is descending, it adds air to the cockpit to maintain volume. When the sub is ascending it allows air to blow out of the cockpit rather than expand in volume. By maintaining a constant air pocket volume in the cockpit the sub’s buoyancy remains constant as pressure varies.
SportSubs can be configured to ride high on the surface, with the entire cockpit and upper hull above water, submerged at neutral buoyancy, or landed solidly on the bottom with enough weight to keep them there while the occupants exit for an extra-vehicular excursion. All of this can be accomplished with a range of combined passenger weights up to 600 pounds in the three-seat models.
Buoyancy adjustment is accomplished by flooding or blowing water ballast within three separate ballast tanks. Flood valves in the cockpit allow air to escape out the tops of each ballast tank while water floods in through their open bottoms. Blowing ballast reverses this procedure, requiring the flood valves to be closed while blow valves are opened to allow pressurized air to bubble into the tanks, rising to the top and forcing water out the open bottom. The forward ballast tank is the hollow, bottomless nose. The entire tail section, surrounding the main air supply tanks, is the aft ballast tank, and the cockpit itself is the third tank.
The Auto Hover System works by taking water pressure readings, inputting them into our computer controlled depth system to automatically control the depth control motors.
Automatic Depth Control System
The new Auto Depth Control system uses 3 fixed position thrusters. All three thrusters are computer controlled by a single joystick. There are two available modes of operation:
• Manual Mode
• Auto Hover Mode (Includes Auto Ascent/Descent Rate Control)
With Auto Depth Control engaged, whenever the vertical thrusters are not being operated manually, the computer takes control of the thrusters and uses them to hold the sub at its current depth. When the pilot wants to change depth, the thumb switch is used to ascend or descend. Once you have reached the depth you want, the pilot releases the thumb switch, and the computer again takes over and will maintain the new depth. Auto Rate Control is operational in this mode. The Auto Rate Control function or 'automatic ascent rate control and descent rate control', helps prevent the sub from ascending or descending too quickly (faster than 1 foot per second). This is a significant safety feature.
launch & recovery
Yes, our submarines are standard equipped with two stainless lifting eyes on the roof.
There are many ways to launch and recover our subs but the common ways are trailer, boat or boat lift.
cost & maintenance
An entry level SportSub starts at $93,000 USD.
You can find a complete list of standard features as well as additional features here.
Yes, our subs are easy to maintain and anyone with basic mechanical knowledge can perform maintenance.
Yes, through our service staff, or we can provide maintenance/service material for a local mechanic or yacht engineer.
No, because our submarines use ambient pressure hulls, there is no requirement for ABS or other expensive certification.
A SportSub is fairly easy to operate, and we offer comprehensive training in the operation of our subs.
Pilots must be certified open water divers to operate our submarines.
Yes we do, please see our pricing page for more information.
Yes, insurance is available through Offshore Risk Management (Lloyd’s of London) LINK
Yes, we can ship your SportSub anywhere in the world by either ocean or air freight
Every country has it’s own regulations and you will need to check with your local authorities
When making inquiries, refer to the SportSub as an ‘autonomous diving bell’ or ‘scuba dive puller’
Yes, we have sold subs to people in almost every country in the world
Yes, we have a complete support system including daily, monthly, and annual checks and maintenance
Yes, we can provide dive site and operational inspections and recommendations.