A personal submarine is a mini u-boat that can take you below the surface of the water, allowing you to explore a world usually hidden away from us mere mortals, without the need to wear a mask and scuba outfit.
Now, most people think of submarines as something that governments pay for so that their navies can defend their sovereign waters. Maybe there are some scientific subs used for research as well, but your average Joe on the street is hardly likely to take out a lease on a submarine. Right?
The Submarine Gets Personal
Well, as you have no doubt figured out from the title above, there is, in fact, a market for personal submarines—that is, submersible vehicles that anyone can buy and that will let you go underwater on purpose.
How capable these subs are depends on the design and your budget. Some are only technically submarines but barely go under the surface. Others are astoundingly capable at pretty reasonable prices.
It’s HOW MUCH?
Now, although personal subs are “affordable” in the sense that they don’t cost billions of dollars, these are still incredibly expensive luxury toys. Perhaps one day they’ll cost no more than jet skis or a speed boat. Heck, even entry-level helicopters are now cheap enough so that someone who was serious about having one could make some sort of plan.
As for personal submersibles, most people are not going to buy one on a whim. For example, the popular Seabreacher craft cost between $80,000 and $100,000, according to the company. That’s not pocket change, by any means.
Yet, we could have probably said the same thing about recreational boats with luxury features just a few decades ago. But, over time, prices do come down for various reasons; even if these marvelous machines are completely out of reach, think of this as a taste of what’s yet to come. So, let’s look at some of the incredible personal submarines that are out there today.
The Aston Martin-Triton Neptune
Aston Martin makes some of the most gorgeous supercars in the world, but with Project Neptune they are certainly heading in a new direction—the ocean depths!
In partnership with Triton, which is a well-respected maker of submarines, Aston Martin wants to sell the Neptune to “researchers, explorers, and superyacht owners”. It’s probably that last category of people that they are really hoping will buy new toys for their yachts. I seriously doubt researchers and explorers can justify this ultra-luxury machine over the more spartan submarines they’ve been using this whole time. Just look at the inside of this thing:
Yes, it’s pretty much an Aston supercar on the inside. Aston says there will be three designs, so you can pay your money and make your choice.
There’s not much technical info about the sub at the time of writing. The press material refers to it as a “three-person”, “deep diving” submarine, so if you pilot this submersible yourself there’s room for two more passengers. Most personal submarines only have room for one or two occupants, so that that’s pretty good. The focus is on safety, and Aston/Triton is aiming to make this the safest craft of its type.
Price? If you have to ask…
The Seabreacher Range
There’s some debate as to whether these vehicles from Seabreacher count as “submarines”, but they definitely aren’t boats. Made (if you want) to look like a shark or an Orca, the inside of a Seabreacher is reminiscent of a fighter jet cockpit. That’s certainly no accident, as the idea behind this marvelous machine is to give you a neck-snapping ride at high speed—rolling and diving in the water.
There are currently three models of Seabreacher: X, Y, and Z. However, they more or less all do the same job—racing under the water’s surface, diving down, and then rocketing you through the air as it breaches the surface:
The X model is a two-seater, in case you want to have someone screaming in your ear as you push its 260 hp engine to the limit.
Unlike a true personal submarine, this machine doesn’t have a ballast system to let it dive to depth. It only cruises a few feet below the surface. Yet you still get a view of underwater life you can’t get even with glass-bottomed yachts.
These are really some of the most incredibly watercraft luxury toys ever made!
U-Boat Worx HiPer Sub 2
If the Neptune is aiming to be the submersible equivalent of an Aston, the HiPer Sub 2 from U-Boat Worx seems to be aiming for the Ferrari market, based on its looks alone.
U-Boat refers to their sub as the “ultimate sports submarine”, referring specifically to how fast and maneuverable it is. The top speed of this submarine is about 6 knots, which is very nearly seven miles per hour. In terms of maneuverability, it has virtually full-3D movement on tap. That includes rolling, looping, vertical ascent and descent, and some pretty steep turns.
You don’t have to enjoy this by yourself either. The HiPer Sub 2 has seating for two, so if there is someone special you want to impress the pants off of, this is the sub to do it in. The HiPer Sub 2 can dive as deep as 100 meters, which is insane, and goes to show how far commercial recreational submarine technology has come.
Taking a sub to such depths would make me pretty nervous, so it’s good to know that there are some modern safety features in this hot little submarine.
U-Boat Worx has sought full certification for their subs at an international level, which means they’re as safe, in principle, as a commercial sub. The personal submarine has controls that are closer to flight controls, which are, of course, meant to match the “hydrobatic” abilities of the vehicle.
Even if you aren’t rich enough to afford a superyacht to go with your personal submersible, the HiPer Sub 2 can be towed by car and launched from a marina. So, in a weird way, this might be the private sub with the most “affordable” cost of ownership.
How affordable? Well, we’re talking about $1.3 million, but at least that includes certification and a training course, so it’s a real bargain!
Seamagine Aurora-3C Submarine
The last submersible we’re going to look at is a much more serious piece of kit. I know that sounds ridiculous when we just looked at a $1.35 million sports sub, but something like the HiPer Sub 2 is really designed to be a personal toy.
That’s not quite true for this Aurora-3C from Seamagine. It’s a three-person submarine rated for a whopping 457 meters; that’s almost five times as deep as the HiPer! It’s only half as fast, however, topping out at about two knots. The Aurora has a rated mission time of eight hours, with 96 hours of reserve capacity. The 40 KWh lithium battery can be charged to full in as little as five hours.
The design of the Aurora is suitably futuristic, but also very practical. It has a very cool boarding system with a small flat deck, a hatch, and a handrail system. Seamagine has also done a heck of a job with the interior space—comfortably seating three passengers, which is quite a feat in this weight and size class.
DIY Personal Subs
While these wonderful submarines are very different in their designs and approaches, one thing they all have in common—price! These are hyper-expensive machines affordable only to multi-millionaires and, more likely, billionaires.
So, what are people of more modest means to do if they want their own personal submersible? The answer is to simply build your own sub! OK, that’s not something we’d actually recommend, but there have been more than a few projects where people have put together their own submersible. It’s not “cheap” in absolute terms, but it’s certainly a different financial prospect than buying a commercial sub.
You can build your sub over years, buying parts as spare cash becomes available. You can pool your resources with other people who share the sub with you. Of course, there are huge safety concerns and other pitfalls with DIY subs, but they are out there and, so far, there have been no notable deaths or injuries.
Of course, you can’t just follow a guide on YouTube and build a personal submersible—you need the knowledge and skills to make it happen or have access to those that do. Perhaps one day both commercial and DIY subs will be more affordable, but until then the vast majority of us can do little more than lust over them.