This is a really brief introduction to the world of RC Submarines. I'll add to this list as I find out more. Tim Smalley has an excellent site designed to introduce the hobby to new people. The SubCommittee is also a great resource for information.
Let's start with an exerpt from one of the RC Submarine community's oldest and most knowledgeable members, Mr. David Meriman III. His writing style can be a bit, shall we say.. direct, however the information is invaluable and his points very concise. Read and comprehend!:
"For further study of this and related ballast water management systems I can not recommend enough Norbert Bruggen’s, MODEL SUBMARINE TECHNOLOGY (ISBN 1 900371 049). It is a must read for anyone wishing to build and operate submarine type r/c vehicles. Within the pages of this excellent book there is an entire chapter dedicated to the subject, an excellent over-view of the many means of getting water in and out of the ballast tank. And don't read his book casually. STUDY IT! And, while you're at it, brush up on your math and circuit reading skills, those disciplines a prerequisite to understanding his presentation.
(Wait! ... is that too much to ask of you? Are you put off by the challenge of becoming conversant in those two technical languages? Well then, let me be blunt: If you can't comprehend the varied and vital topics in Norbert's book -- and circuit schematics and basic math conventions are a big part of it -- may I suggest that you're not qualified to pursue the game of r/c submarining in any meaningful way. This is not a game for lazy, stupid, inattentive, no-talent, puffy arm-chair Admiral's. Consider the reading and comprehension of Norbert's book your entrance exam. Understand it and your in. And if it's over your pointy little head, then get out before you dump a bunch of cash on stuff you're not equipped to understand or use).
R/c submarining is the game of the elites in the field of r/c vehicle fabrication and operation. It's not an entry-level activity!
Other suggested reading includes my Cabal Reports, found here: http://vabiz.com/d&e/articles.html
There are several forums out there in Net-land dealing with r/c model submarines. But, most of those suffer from a terribly high noise to signal ratio and do more harm than good for those wishing to get the straight skinny about r/c model submarining. Exceptions to that bleak observation include the German Sonar, British Model Boaters Mayhem, AMS, and a few other bastions of wisdom, informative pictures, and captivating video. You got a computer … go find 'em!
An RC sub is basically a surface ship that has the added ability to dive under the water and return to the surface again. These models may have static (ballast system) or dynamic (no ballast system) diving capabilities, although many sub-humans will say that dynamically diving subs are really just waterproof surface craft and not true submarines.
Well, no. Not when they're under four feet of water. It's the challenge of diving a submarine and then bringing her back up safely that's the ultimate reward. There's also a sense of satisfaction watching the surface craft skippers on shore jump in surprise when your sub pops up just behind them, ready for a torpedo shot! When ballasted negatively (not recommended, but real fun), you can actually "park" your sub on the bottom and wait for unsuspecting prey to pass by.
This is probably the number one question that I get! Its an exciting hobby, but it can be a daunting thing to get into. There is lots to learn, and "getting your feet wet" properly is important in order to eliminate the possibility of getting frustrated, losing a valuable submarine, or hurting yourself! There are a few different kits that I'd recommend:
Very basically, the static diving submarines will take on water to the point that they will easily dive under the water with a little bit of help from the control surfaces (dive planes). When surfacing, water is forced out of the ballast tank either by a pump or by compressed gas of some kind. Dynamic divers use their control surfaces only to force them under the water. When speed drops, their bouyancy forces them to the surface. See a video of the internal workings of an RC sub WTC from my video here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).
Radio signals will penetrate water. Freshwater is the best for getting clear transmission to your model and there are many experienced sub drivers who have operated (properly constructed) submarine models in depths in excess of thirty feet. Once you start getting additions such as chlorine or salt in the water, you will see serious reduction to the maximum depth you will be able to control you model. When operating at the surface, the only limit is your radio system. Submarines can be operated in heavily chlorinated pools, or even in the ocean, but you depth will be limited to a few inches, at best. Operating any deeper will require an antenna addition, as you'll need to keep the antenna above the surface of the water in order to maintain control of your model.
Lots. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You can get pool toys that will let you piddle around in your backyard pool for a few hundred dollars, but a complete RTR RC Sub in a decent scale will set you back a good $1500 to start with. Sub hulls go for around $400 to $500US, and a complete WTC (water tight compartment) with full electronics suite will add another $1000. Tack on a decent radio, and your pretty close to $2000US. You can do better or worse for price depending on what you're looking for, but that's a pretty good idea of what they're worth.
I guess that depends on the model and the drive system, but a good average is a fast walking pace at full throttle. Modern nuclear subs are more hydrodynamic than older submarine designs such as WWII fleetboats, and are therefore typically faster.
All they way to the bottom (all the RC sub sites say that, so I guess I might as well, too). My WTC should be good in excess of thirty feet or so, but I really do not want to go that deep. In practical terms, you should only go as deep as you can see, typically less than five feet, and that's plenty enough water to get into trouble with. Radio signals penetrate a lot of fresh water, but things like chlorine and salt water significantly reduce your radio range.
Blood, sweat, and tears mostly. Hulls are generally made of fibreglass or GRP (glass reinforced plastic). High end hulls are manufactured with epoxy. Some smaller hulls are made from vacuum forrmed plastic. WTC (water tight compartments) are typically made from clear lexan so that the owner can easily check for leaks. Acrylic tubing works, but you need to be aware that it is very prone to cracking at the edges.
There are two options: build it or buy it. Building is cheaper (though not by much), but is infinitely more time-consuming and you're end product will generally not be as high quality as the suppliers can put out. My Nautilus project has kept me busy for many years, and after a while it gets a bit frustrating. If I could do it all again, I'd buy my first kit, and then worry about building the next project while I can enjoy the first in the interim. But that's just my opinion. Some of the suppliers are listed on my Links page , but a full listing can be found on the Subcommittee website .
You betcha! Both have been done before by many talented modellers. Dave Merriman of D&E Miniatures has actually built a six tube torpedo launcher for his 1:72 scale Alfa submarine! Most of these weapons systems are powered by compressed gas. Stay away from the Estes rocket engine idea. Apparently fire and water don't mix that well.
Submarines with a ballast system require a minimum of four channels (throttle, dive planes, rudder, ballast). Make sure that your radio is operating on 75Mhz (surface frequency). Airplane frequencies technically work, but if you mess up someone's model airplane while running your sub, get ready for some unhappiness from the owner and from the government if they catch you. In terms of channels, if you're thinking of adding addtional features such as torpedoes, missiles, periscopes, etc..., then make sure you have some extra channels. I bought an Airtronics VG600 6-channel for my Nautilus (four standard channels plus working lights and a spare channel).
Anything that you can dream of, build or buy. Missiles, torpedoes, lighting, periscopes, working hatches, sound effects, diesel smoke (for WWII diesel-electrics, of course), bow thrusters, and much more. Just make sure that you have enough channels on your radio and space in your hull for all the goodies. Save room for working video and sound, and a new fish-finder on the market actually lets you add sonar to your model with the display sent back to you on shore!
You cry. You curse. You pray. Then, you get wet. Your sub is probably mired in the mud or hung up on some weeds. Take a set of swim trunks and a mask to the pond with you in case something like this happens. When she doesn't come up, sight some landmarks or throw a marker where you last saw it. Then head out to sea and hope for the best. Be sure that you have a failsafe system installed that will automatically blow ballast if you lose radio signal. Another option is to build a buoy that gets released after a set amount of time. One exceptional idea is to use a tic tac candy to secure a float to the hull. After a period of time, the tic tac dissolves, and releases the buoy. It needs to be replaced at every run, but it makes sure that you get your model home every night.