Neptune SB-1 radio-controlled submarine provides real-time underwater video
By Ben Coxworth
January 7, 2010
How would you like to be one of those people who remotely-operate those little unmanned submarines, watching their live video feeds as they explore shipwrecks or engage giant squids? Well, good luck with that. In the meantime, you can make due with buying a Thunder Tiger Neptune SB-1 radio-controlled submarine. By installing the optional mini video camera inside its clear nose cone, you can proceed to explore the briny depths of your local lake, pond or swimming pool.
There are several videos on the web that were shot by watertight video cameras mounted to the outside of RC subs. While the footage may look neat, the sub operator didn’t get to see any of it until the camera was back on dry land. The SB-1, by contrast, has a 15-meter video cable that hooks up to a portable LCD monitor (Also optional), so you can see what the camera sees in real time. A wireless video system would certainly be less cumbersome, but video signals travel very poorly underwater. Some hobbyists have suggested using just enough video cable to reach the surface, then attaching it to a wireless transmitter on a buoy. Perhaps..?
The optional video system isn’t the SB-1’s only snazzy feature. Many RC subs utilize a dynamic diving system, meaning that they use the hydrodynamic force of the water flowing over their wing-like diving planes to submerge. That means they must be moving forward to move down, and that they can’t move forward without moving down. Additionally, they start to float back up as soon as they stop moving. The SB-1, however, is a static diving sub. Because it submerges by pumping water into its ballast tank, it can move straight up or down, hover at that depth, then move forward without changing depth - Unless you want it to.
The SB-1 has a maximum operating depth of five meters, although it can make it down to ten still intact. In the event that it does leak, lose radio contact, or deplete its battery, it will automatically purge its ballast tank and float back to the surface. Unfortunately, a sub of this calibre doesn’t come cheap. The suggested retail price of the SB-1 is $US700, although most online retailers offer it for about $570. While the camera and monitor are extras, you could presumably use less expensive ones, as long as the camera was small enough. But really... Is it possible to put a price on discovering a sunken Spanish galleon over in Beaver Lake?
The following video of a Titanic wreck model was shot by the Neptune SB-1.