For those who want a truly immersive travel experience, submersible specialists DeepFlight and Rainbowfish Ocean Technology have collaborated to form DeepFlight Adventures—a guide service with depth. To facilitate the endeavor, DeepFlight has developed its latest aquatic explorer, the Super Falcon 3S. And though the official partnership announcement and vehicle debut will be made at the Monaco Yacht Show on September 28, RobbReport.com has been allowed to surface first with the details.
“Teaming up with Rainbowfish will enable us to achieve our mutual goal of unlocking the oceans for human access,” says Adam Wright, DeepFlight’s chief executive officer. “We will be able to give individuals a level of exposure to the underwater realm that they may not otherwise be able to attain.”
A key component to the plan is the Super Falcon 3S. A larger version of the original Super Falcon (introduced in 2009), it measures 25 feet in length, 10.8 feet in width, and 5.2 feet in height. Unlike the previous model, the new addition features three inline viewports (interconnected via a closed-circuit communications system) to accommodate a pilot and two passengers. Each person benefits from their own cast-acrylic hemispherical canopy that lets them take in the sights while descending to a maximum level of 400 feet.
Equipped with a fly-by-wire, three-axis flight control system, the winged wonder travels through liquid space much like an airplane and is even capable of hydrobatic maneuvers. Propulsion is provided by two pressure-compensated, direct-drive brushless DC thrusters and a large composite propeller that enables a top cruising speed of 6 knots. And a 14 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery (supported by two 120–240 VAC charging systems) allows for up to 8 hours of autonomous travel under normal conditions. As with all of the company’s conveyances, the form-fitted-composite craft is positively buoyant; in the highly unlikely case that any system failure occurs (there has never been one to date), the sub will naturally ascend due to the physics of its design and construction.
“We primarily developed the DeepFlight Super Falcon 3S so that people could share the experience with a friend or family member along with the dedicated pilot,” explains Wright. “There have also been a number of improvements incorporated from a comfort and maintenance perspective as these subs are going to be used all the time.”
Frequency of deployment is certainly a factor considering the program’s possible scope. “There are over 700 five-star, seaside resorts around the world—many with beautiful reefs on their front porch,” says DeepFlight’s cofounder Karen Hawkes. “We see a really big upside as far as potential in the new industry of underwater tourism.” In addition, the team is also targeting cruise lines as prospects for implementation.
Such magnitude requires a substantial infrastructure, and that is where Rainbowfish factors in. Based in China, the firm is focused on deep-sea equipment fabrication and research, with much attention and assets going into the Rainbowfish 11000, a manned submarine intended to reach a depth of over 36,000 feet (11,000 meters). The latter is scheduled to make a roundtrip journey to the bottom of the western Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench (the deepest point on the planet) sometime in 2020. It is this very expertise that bolsters DeepFlight Adventure’s commercial viability.
“Rainbowfish can provide all of the necessary technical support,” says company chairman Dr. Xin Wu. “And we are very interested in expanding our technology into tourism.”
As preparation, both parties set off in July on a multi-purpose expedition to Papua New Guinea aboard Rainbowfish’s new 4,800-ton ship, the MV Zhang Jian. In conjunction with using unmanned submersibles to conduct oceanic assessments of environmental impact due to mining, the crew hosted 12 guests who had a DeepFlight Dragon at their disposal. “The tourists mixed with scientists and engineers and were given presentations in the evenings,” says Wu. “During the days, they dove to about 200 feet and discovered new perspectives on the region, including a close-up look at the Yokohama Maru wreck from World War II—everyone wanted to stay longer.”
Based on the successful trial run, the next phase for DeepFlight Adventures is moving full steam ahead with plans for initial operations in Hawaii, the Maldives, French Polynesia, and the Caribbean. The first resort outpost is scheduled to open in 2017 at a yet-to-be-announced location. (deepflight.com)