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Platypus Prototye Hits the Water

By Paul Joseph

A prototype of the Platypus underwater vehicle, which first launched in concept form in 2011, has hit the water as it edges closer to commercial availability.

The brainchild of François-Alexandre Bertrand, the aquatic exploration vehicle has been designed as a catamaran with a central platform that passengers straddle.

Two pivoting arms connect the two hulls to the platform, which can be hydraulically lowered under the water, allowing users to cruise around both above and – with the aid of an in-built air compressor supplying oxygen – below the water's surface.

“The submersible has existed for a long time, but with a big bubble," Bertrand told Gizmag website.

“We're the first to offer an up position in order to navigate like a boat, and a submerged position where you are under the water to navigate – totally free, wearing just a swimsuit.”

Weighing 720 kg, the prototype is propelled through the water by two Torqeedo electric motors powered by a 10 kW lithium-ion battery pack. Above the water, the vehicle can reach speeds of up to 10 knots, and below the water around 5 knots. The battery lasts for around four hours with a standard mix of surface and diving modes.

The company also plans to produce a model powered by two 9.9 hp Mercury engines that will give the craft a surface mode speed of up to 14 knots (16 mph/26 km/h) and greater range.

In recent years submersibles have become increasingly popular with superyacht owners keen to offer the opportunity for guests to explore the ocean’s depths.

The first units are expected for release in around March 2014, with the company planning to take pre-orders before the end of this year. Prices are expected to start at around €42,000 ($56,700).

By Paul Joseph