Cyclops class submersibles are deployed using an integrated launch and recovery platform. Operated similarly to a ship dry dock, the platform is ideally suited to launching and recovering manned submersibles.
With the submersible secured to the platform, dive crews can launch and recover the submersible by flooding the ballast tanks and submerging the entire integrated dive system to a depth of approximately 30 feet below the effects of surface waves. Once submerged, the pilot can disengage the locking mechanism, and the submersible can safely lift off of the platform to begin the dive.
At the conclusion of a dive, the pilot docks the sub on the submerged platform, guided into position by integrated landing provisions. Once in position, the locking mechanism is engaged to secure the submersible on the platform. Once secured, a custom valve transfers air from the low-pressure air tanks to the ballast compartments to push the water out and bring the platform and submersible to the surface all without a need for scuba divers.
The benefit of the integrated dive platform is that it is extremely mobile, and it can be cost-effectively deployed because it does not require a large ship with a man-rated crane or A-frame to launch and retrieve the submersibles. This makes it possible to work in remote areas using smaller, locally available commercial ships at a much lower cost.
Submerged launch and recovery systems are not new. The Hawaii Undersea Research Lab has used a similar system since the late 1980s. What our engineering team did in collaboration with the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory was modify the concept to eliminate the need for scuba divers, and also make the platform modular so it is mobile and not tied to a fixed geographic location.
The integrated dive platform provides a lifting capacity of 20,000 lbs. The vessel is 35 feet long, 15 feet wide, and draws 2 feet when fully loaded.