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Sub from scratch comments - newbe to subs but not to modeling

R/C Submarine modelers

Postby 112-1052706976 » Sun May 11, 2003 10:52 pm

Good evening everyone. This is my first time posting on this board. I have to say I'm excited about my adventures into R/C sub modeling.

I would like to give a brief summary of myself to kind of introduce myself to the board. I am a 21 year old computer scientist. I have never made a R/C sub before but I have made a R/C Airplane. I recently moved to a lake and my older brother (29 years old) and I have discussed interesting projects we could make. I came up with the idea for the submarine so I did some research and discoverd this board.

Now for the reason for this post. I was hoping I could get some comments and advice about my planned submarine as I have many problems I know I still must work out and many more that are yet to be discovered.

I want to make a submarine from scratch that is not based on any previously known sub. I want to place a b&w ccd camera inside a clear dome on the front of the submarine (I am not familiar with nautical terms so feel free to inform me of the correct names of things). I am thinking some kind of plastic molded to the correct shape. I plan to design the hull in autocad and have a friend create a mold so I can create the hull out of differant materials. Any suggestions to a material for a hull? I plan to have two electric engines and ballists. That is the basic design of the submarine.

Now what I would like to do is have the submarine controlled from a computer or at least show data on the computer. I would like to have some type of sonar for determining the distance to the bottom of the water body. I also plan on putting some IR lights on so the camera will be able to see in the somewhat murky water. I have to do some research on the radio controllers to decide how best to handle that portion. I would like to have the choice to control it with a standard controller or through a computer which is linked to a radio transmitter (I'm not sure if this is the correct term for this). I would like the submarine to be able to travel at depths of at lest 20 ft and be able to be controlled and send a video signal back so I can view the video feed.

thanks for reading and any comments/suggestions would be most appreciated. I am not a good speller so I apologize for any errors.



Postby Captain Bergevoet » Mon May 12, 2003 7:05 am

Hey Plyze,
there`s a lot of questions in your E-mail. I have one very important tip for you concerning the IR lights: Forget about it. IR light under water has only a very small penetration (in the order of a couple of cm if my memory serves me right.
Capt. Bergevoet
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Postby Bob the Builder » Mon May 12, 2003 11:23 am

I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I think you can forget the camera idea too.

In order for it to work, you'll need to run a cable to bring the feed up to the surface to a floating transmitter. I think that the better video systems only transmit something like a few inches under water (something to do with the frequency they use).

I'll be installing one in my sub in the future, but the camera will simply be mounted below the waterline and will broadcast only when surfaced.

My advice to you is to build a simple sub first to "get your feet wet" so to speak. I've been working on my Nautilus project for well over a year now, and it's really easy to get discouraged from the sheer magnitude of scratching a complicated hull (or in your case, electronics).

It's a great hobby. Break into it first, and then go for the fancy stuff!
Bob Martin,
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Postby Dolphin » Mon May 12, 2003 9:10 pm

Reading your comments, first let me and others welcome you to the SubCommittee. Urge you to get a subscription to our quarterly very handsome club magazine. You won't regret it reading it cover to cover.

It sounds like you are wishing to build a R/C ROV (Radio Controlled Remote Operated Vehicle). An amazing gentleman here on the west coast who has demonstrated very advanced electronics in his operating submarine models at west coast regattas is member Mr. Rick Galinson.

His boats reflect development with autonomous operations, navigation with GPS, and probably many other things I would previously have thought impossible. He seems up your alley.

I was attracted to your posting thinking it was someone who built scale models from scratch. You have the freedom of 'imaginerring' that comes from a prototype. Your first goal is to consider what role you wish the model to do, and develop its abilities to accomplish that aim. Allow for growth in the design, however you interpit this, remembering this will be likely just the 'A' model' . It may take an 'F' or 'G' model before you know what is important and just as important what to discard as useless or over-enginneerred and simply just works reliably.
Mr. Skip Asay here in our club, one of the pioneers of R/C subs in America, has a pre-amble...KISS keep it simple. Build a vehicle (dry platform) to hold these gadgets with the chief aim, and your only aim of keeping the whole thing dry inside. Most has been done before, and most here know what works and what is a waist of time re-inventing the wheel. Many of these items are 'off the shelf'. Seals that keep rods in autos from leaking oil under pressure are easy to adapt to water, and are already made and work for example.

I am a scale nut, and even though engineering with scale subs is essential too. As for your kind of engineering and gadgets I will leave up to you, and the rest of you good chaps at 'Q branch'. :) For what is is worth, hope it helps.

Steve Reichmuth

Postby 112-1052706976 » Mon May 12, 2003 11:58 pm

Thanks for the advice guys. I had a feeling I was starting out too complicated but a guy has to dream :) . I am most likely going to start with fabricating a shell that will float. Then proceed with getting it running and possibly adding some of the bells and whistles later. I am interested in creating a remotely piloted submarine and hopefully that I will one day succeed. I greatly appreciate all the advice you have given and I look forward to the future advice I am sure I will receive. Thank you for your time in both reading and responding to my post.

Thanks again


Postby Robse » Tue May 13, 2003 1:59 pm

Hi plyzie

I'm a computer-guy as well, AND I'm building my first sub. As I go along, I update my homepage with this project, and I'll surgest yuo'll take a look. There might be a few things that you can use, and I would love to share the results of hours of reading, study and tests.

Good luck with your sub. :)
Yours Sincerely, Robert Holsting, Denmark
1/81 SSBN Ohio Class scratch builder, more at

"Never be afraid to try something new; remember that it was amateurs who build Noah's Ark, and professionals who build the Titanic"
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Postby 71-1045838159 » Wed May 14, 2003 1:43 am

Hi, I am a newone in this as well, and also have a dream... but I am with the fellows, for the first time, keep it simple .

What I am doing for my first sub (scratch Akula 1/96th) is using a microcontroller (87C51 FA) to act on diving and surface operations, including helms-man functions (acting on the planes) and controlling the inclination of the whole sub. Also the micro will control the motor speed (via Pulse Width Modulation). Other functions will include up to 16 on/off switches, water alarm, lost of signal alarm, emergency buoy release. But when trying to put a camera, sonar, etc, in a sub... I think the matter can get too complicated very rapidly for a standard RC sub. I have been researching a bit and I am thinking that perhaps using a computer to control the whole stuff may work (for me will be certainly a (long) future proyect). A powerful wireless modem may well be the way to link the computer with the sub (I have no idea of frecuencies availables and legal stuffs), and the link could transmit the camera images, the sonar digitalised info (allowing post processing in the computer using matlab or something of the kind, beamforming, etc) and obviously many data about the sub status (RPMs, water temp, motor temp, battery charge, depth, bearing, etc)... But better start with a simple RC sub, using an stardard RC Transmitter... even if you put a camera in it, there is plenty space for upgrades (directional antenas, transmiter booster, etc).

By the way, welcome!


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