With DeepFlight, flying underwater's a joy (pictures)

CNET's Daniel Terdiman rode in a SuperFalcon, going 150 feet deep, doing something fewer people have done than go into space.

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Daniel Terdiman

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1 of 24 DeepFlight

Diving

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- When you're doing something fewer people have done than go into space, it's hard not to feel privileged.

That's especially true when it's riding inside a DeepFlight SuperFalcon, a two-person submersible that plies the depths of lakes and oceans like a sleek airplane.

Designed for owners of super yachts, and costing $1.7 million, these are machines only a few people will ever experience. But they allow those inside them to view the underwater world with clarity and closeness that almost no other method can offer.

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2 of 24 DeepFlight

Going up

Controlled on a fly-by-wire system, the SuperFalcon can dive to 120 meters, and has the nimble freedom of movement of a small plane. It can fly alongside dolphins, or dive with whales. And because it's positively buoyant, if something goes wrong mechanically, it simply floats back to the surface.

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3 of 24 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

On trailer

On a day of diving in Lake Tahoe, the SuperFalcon sits on its trailer in the early morning sunshine, its two acrylic domes covered up.

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4 of 24 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Straight on

A look at the SuperFalcon, which is just 8.8 feet wide (including wings) from the front.

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5 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Thumbs-up

CNET's Daniel Terdiman (sitting in the rear) gives the thumbs-up as the SuperFalcon is lowered into the waters of Lake Tahoe. DeepFlight founder and lead designer Graham Hawkes sits in front.

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6 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Graham Hawkes

Hawkes, who has been designing submersible vehicles for decades, once built one for the 1981 James Bond film, "For Your Eyes Only."

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7 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Pushing off the dock

A swimmer in a dry suit pushes the SuperFalcon off its dock and out into the open water.

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8 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Heading out

The SuperFalcon begins to motor out onto Lake Tahoe, preparing to dive below the surface. The submersible operates on a DC thruster and lithium-iron battery system, and is a zero-emissions vehicle.

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9 of 24 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Console

Each person in the SuperFalcon has a console in front of their acrylic dome, which allows them to see the submersible's heading and depth.

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10 of 24 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Diving down

As the SuperFalcon dives, the console is flooded with bubbles.

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11 of 24 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Calm underwater

Once underwater, everything appears calm and quiet. In Lake Tahoe, where there is little marine life, the water is eerily still, and impossibly blue.

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12 of 24 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Reflection as surfacing

As the SuperFalcon reaches for the surface, its reflection is mirrored on the underside of the calm water.

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13 of 24 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Above the surface

As it surfaces, the SuperFalcon sticks just above water level.

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14 of 24 DeepFlight

Going by

Photographed from an underwater camera on a boat at the surface, the SuperFalcon glides by, leaving just the barest trace of a wake.

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15 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Below the surface

Photographed from a pier, the SuperFalcon is seen entirely underwater, just below the surface.

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16 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Breaking the surface

The SuperFalcon, seen just as it breaks the surface of Lake Tahoe. It travels at speeds between 2.3 and 6.9 miles an hour.

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17 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Drone filming

An octocopter flies above the surface, filming the SuperFalcon as it plies Lake Tahoe.

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18 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Drone fliming closer

A closer look at an octocopter that's filming the SuperFalcon.

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19 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Quick turn

The SuperFalcon's wake shows how sharp a turn it can make. The submersible can make very steep dives or ascents, and can even "fly" upside down.

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20 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Diving

The SuperFalcon dives for the depths of Lake Tahoe.

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21 of 24 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Dome reflection

As it nears the surface, but before breaking through, the SuperFalcon's front dome is seen reflected on the underside of the water.

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22 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Thumbs-up close-up

CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman gives another thumbs-up as the SuperFalcon motors quietly back to the dock.

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23 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

No passengers

There are "no passengers" on a DeepFlight submersible like the SuperFalcon, explained Graham Hawkes, the company's founder and head designer. Each person aboard has flight controls, and either person can pilot it at any time.

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24 of 24 Kathleen Craig for CNET

Waving

CNET's Daniel Terdiman waves from the SuperFalcon, seen from the pier above.

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