OceanGate Completes Hull Design for Subsea Manned Submersible

03 September 2013

OceanGate has completed an initial carbon fibre hull design and feasibility study for its next generation manned submersible – Cyclops.

Under a contract issued to Boeing Research & Technology (BR&T), OceanGate, the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington, US (APL-UW), and Boeing have validated the basic hull design for a submersible vehicle able to reach depths of 3,000 metres. With its large 180-degree borosilicate glass dome, the new vehicle will offer clients a chance to examine the environment, collect samples, and deploy technology in subsea settings in person and in real time. When commercially available in 2016, Cyclops will be the only privately owned deep-water (greater than 2,000 metres) manned submersible available for contracts. A follow on 6,000-metre version is slated for completion in 4Q 2016.

“Recent advances in material science, manufacturing and testing facilities that combine innovative engineering processes have allowed for a unique collaboration between OceanGate, Boeing and the APL team to complete the feasibility study and move the process to the manufacturing stage,” states Stockton Rush, CEO. “The research, military and commercial markets need more vehicles for subsea exploration. OceanGate’s Cyclops submersible will usher in a new class of vehicle to help fulfill this need.”

The Cyclops submersible will feature a seven-inch thick, individual-fibre-placed carbon fibre hull using proprietary Boeing manufacturing technology. The ability to accurately place thousands of individual strips of pre-impregnated fibre will overcome many of the hard to control variables surrounding traditional filament winding processes and permit the hull to withstand the very high compressive loads at 3,000 metres (300 bar/4,300 psi).

OceanGate says the use of carbon fibre will also help make Cyclops significantly lighter than other subsea manned submersibles, making deployment operations faster, easier and cost-efficient. While in the water, Cyclops’ five crew members can comfortably observe the ocean depths through a glass dome, which offers unobstructed views for at-depth inspections, environmental assessments, discussion, decision making and observation.

"We are pleased to work with OceanGate and the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington for the development of the pressure hull of OceanGate’s next-generation manned submersible,” states Jerry Young, Boeing Research & Technology Director of Materials and Manufacturing Technology. “We are looking forward to bringing our design and manufacturing knowledge of hybrid materials to help OceanGate meet this technology challenge.”

Operating at depths beyond 1,000 metres with remotely operated vehicles is extremely difficult as they require large heavy tethers and specialised support vessels. Cyclops will eliminate the tethering limitations and allow its five crew members to observe underwater environments for up to eight  continuous hours. Using a patent-pending submerging Launch, Retrieval and Transport (LRT) platform, OceanGate can operate a manned vehicle with ships of opportunity at much lower costs than most other manned vehicles and, in many cases, even less expensively than ROVs. With the ability to be quickly and affordably deployed around the world, Cyclops will usher in a new generation of oceanic exploration and study.

“We see great opportunities for the science and technology communities to work with OceanGate to provide a next generation capability for ocean exploration,” states Bob Miyamoto, Director for Defence and Industry Programmes at the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory. “To have the freedom to more easily integrate new technologies into a submersible and then be there, in person, to watch over how sensors, controllers, or manipulators are responding to the ocean, will help significantly reduce timelines and cost of development.”

OceanGate first received national attention last November for the discovery of a downed World War II Hellcat fighter aircraft off the coast of Miami, Florida that was showcased on CBS morning news. More recently, in June 2013 OceanGate completed a series of successful expeditions in three different bodies of water - the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean – all in just 30 days. In the Gulf of Mexico, Black Elk Energy tasked Antipodes to dive on a decommissioned offshore oil platform to survey the site and gather trans-sectional footage for use in assessments on the "Idle Iron" issue. In addition, OceanGate’s Expedition Lionfish, which took place off the coast of Florida, received international attention for connecting researchers and stakeholders as part of a larger dialogue to address the economic and environmental impacts of the lionfish epidemic. 

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