Thursday 3, March 2016

Dubai – MENA Herald: Among the many water craft promoted at this year’s Dubai International Boat Show, two stand apart – notable not for their speed or grace across the water, but how deep they can go below the waves.

The U-Boat Worx C-Explorer 3 and Friday Personal Submarine are compact passenger-carrying submersibles that open up a new world in underwater exploration. With a maximum dive depth of 300 metres, they can go 16 times deeper than the 18 metre limit for the most widely held recreational diving qualification, the PADI Open Water Certificate.

“There are lots of things to explore that are too deep for SCUBA diving,” said Roy de Boer from U-Boat Worx. “Most shipwrecks that you can dive have been prepared, and lots of divers have already been there. With a sub, you can find shipwrecks that have never been seen since the day they sank – you can be the first there.”

Each of the two submarines owes its design to marine research equipment – and in the case of the Friday, is a spin-off from the University of Coimbra in Portugal – and is engineered to the same safety standards. Pilot and passengers sit inside an acrylic globe, offering an almost unrestricted view of the surrounding space. Propulsion is via electric motors, while the controls are similar to those used for remote aerial drones – simple to use and can be mastered with a short training course. Accessories, such as articulated arms, can be attached.

“We developed the submarine to use in our own research, aiming to dive up to 300 metres with a mission of eight hours duration,” said Fernando Seabra Santos, Friday CEO and a professor at the university. “It was an intellectual challenge for a group of researchers, and aims to be the smallest, lightest, and also the most affordable of its kind.”

The submarines’ origins are in serious research and exploration, but both cater to a growing recreational market. With maximum dimensions of around 2.5 metres by 1.84 metres, the Friday Personal Submarine is small enough to fit in a “regular yacht garage”, while U-Boat Worx offers a range of models to suit recreational, scientific and commercial applications, including submersibles specifically designed to be launched from yachts, and nine-passenger submarines catering to cruise ships.

Personal submarines are among a growing market for high-tech products that find new ways of experiencing the sea. The Dive Middle East Exhibition (DMEX) features an expanding range of tech that caters to the boom in underwater video and photography, including every GoPro accessory you can imagine, including drone miniature submarines – great for capturing underwater action, adding a new dimension to SCUBA and snorkelling, or, on a more serious note, for checking for dangers and obstacles on difficult dives. One of the ROV manufacturers at the show, Deep Trekker is also displaying a fish-finding underwater drone equipped with sonar.

Electric watercraft are a growing trend in boating, from hybrid superyachts to simple pleasure boats, such as the Eco Boat, powered by a solar panel-equipped canopy with battery back-up. The boat is designed for sheltered waterways, and is ideal for exploring natural wetlands without disturbing the environment. At the new Beach Demo Area visitors are getting an introduction to jet surfing – combining a surfboard with a powerful-but-compact electric motor – while another product in the Outdoor Display is showing off an innovative take on the personal watercraft market, the Quadrafoil 2QA. Powered by a 3.7 kilowatt electric outboard motor, the two-seat craft resembles a jet ski, with the addition of retractable hydrofoils at each corner. As the Quadrafoil accelerates towards 11 km/h, the hydrofoils lift the hull out of the water, reducing drag and allowing a top speed of around 40 km/h.

“The ride is incredibly smooth,” explained Mohamed Alshaibani, CEO of Middle East distributor, X Marine. “The Quadrafoil lifts out of the water the moment it starts taking off, and will cruise comfortably even above when there is a bit of swell.”

Getting to Dubai International Boat Show
The 24th Dubai International Boat Show at Dubai International Marine Club – Mina Seyahi is open to trade visitors and the general public from 3pm – 9.30pm daily until 5 March 2016, with a single entry ticket cost of AED 60. Free parking is available at Skydive Dubai and at Gateway Towers – the multi-story carpark at the entrance to the Palm Jumeirah – with shuttle transfer to the show, while the Dubai Tram’ Mina Seyahi Station is immediately outside the gates.