Saturday, November 27, 2010

Flying - underwater! The K-10 hydrospeeder.

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Two K-10 HydroSpeeders glistened in the sun at Captain Slate's Atlantis Dive Center, where we had gathered for a demonstration ride. At first glance they looked fast, much faster than other diver propulsion vehicles. They also appeared to be very well made, using top quality components and precisely machined parts. Their smoothly sculpted fiberglass fairings and windshield reminded me of Grand Prix motorcycles - those rocket-fast road racers ridden in a nearly prone position. The forward wings and aerodynamic shape also brought to mind a sleek fighter jet, such as the F-16 Eagle. The controls had the feel of an aircraft, too. When I moved the wing levers, the response was smooth and precise.

MARINE GEAR CORPORATION: Ted Ciamillo, inventor of the HydroSpeeder and president of Marine Gear Corporation, had brought the two machines from the factory in Georgia for the occasion. Ted was accompanied by Martin Dijkema, his partner and CEO of the company. As they readied the units for use, Ted told me the story behind their development.

Always fascinated with the underwater world, Ted was exploring a Berkshire Mountains lake at his grandmother's home when he was inspired to design a fast diver propulsion vehicle. He wanted something that would streamline the diver and be highly maneuverable. He also wanted speed, lots of speed. To get those characteristics, Ted realized the vehicle had to incorporate certain design parameters. First, the diver's scuba gear had to be integrated into the vehicle to minimize drag. Second, the propulsion system had to be exceptionally powerful. Third, to get the maneuverability desired from a machine of this size, flight controls would be necessary. Depending on the diver's fins and body movements to turn, climb and descend would not work. Two and a half years after deciding on those basic guidelines, Ted perfected the design of the K-10.


Length 6 feet, 10 inches

Width 50 inches

Height 18 inches

Weight 198 pounds

Frame Powder coated aircraft

Power 36 volt DC from 6
Hawker Energy dry

Motors Two 81 pound thrust
Motor Guide, Inc.,

Max speed 8 knots

Charge lasts About 1.5 hours,
depending on usage

Price $7,550
The design and manufacturing process depended greatly on the latest computer-aided technology. Ted developed an early understanding of computerized numeric control machining working in his father's precision parts shop. The combination of Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacture (CAM) allowed him to shorten the production time for individual parts on the K-10 from a matter of weeks to a couple of hours. There are more than 70 different individually machined parts on the HydroSpeeder and all of them are flawlessly finished thanks to this new technology.

The K-10 HydroSpeeder is the most advanced underwater propulsion system available to recreational divers. Powered by twin 36 volt electric motors with 81 pounds of thrust each, the HydroSpeeder is capable of speeds approaching eight knots. When you consider that most other diver propulsion vehicles are operating in the one knot range, that speed is extremely fast.

FIRST FLIGHT: My impression of the racing motorcycles was reinforced when I straddled the K-10. You climb aboard wearing just your wetsuit and mask. No fins are necessary and the regulator is waiting on the console. The saddle conceals the tank, a standard 63 cubic foot aluminum. The console also contains your pressure gauge, depth gauge, dive computer and systems indicators. The low pressure hose is hooked into the K-10's internal pressure system, which powers the buoyancy bladders and puts five pounds of positive pressure in the battery housing to eliminate leaks.

The first session on a K-10 is an adrenaline rush, but it's not something you just jump on and take off with. Piloting it is not as intuitive as using a scooter. On the K-10 you pull your knees up, lean forward and tuck in to get in the driving, or perhaps I should say flying, position. Foot rests are integrated into the frame, with the motor switches conveniently beneath your toes. The two wing controls are positioned where your hands rest naturally. Move the wings in opposite directions to initiate a roll, then pull them both back to bank a turn. Since the motors are controlled independently, they can be used in turns, too. Engage only the right motor and its thrust will push you around to the left. In level flight, both wing controls are moved simultaneously to dive or climb.

Piloting the K-10 is very much like flying an aerobatic plane, although you have to watch those depth changes. You can bank it, roll it, fly it inverted or just kick on both motors for straight-away speed. Everyone who had a shot at piloting the K-10 on our demonstration day had a blast! We ran them until the batteries were flat, which takes about an hour and a half, and wanted more. Ted watched us with remarkable restraint, saying that full confidence comes to most divers after five or six sessions.

Naturally, moving the K-10 around on land is more involved than handling a small scooter. Ted brought our two demonstration units down in the bed of a full-sized pickup, but they also fit on nearly any personal watercraft trailer. A custom inflatable tow raft is being designed that will allow the HydroSpeeder to be towed at speeds of up to ten knots. Two people were able to pick one up and move it around quite easily, even with the battery and scuba tank installed.

GET YOUR OWN: Marine Gear Corporation is turning out 12 units a month now, with plans to produce 24 a month by the middle of the summer. So, how much do they cost and where can you get one? The price is $7,550 plus freight from Atlanta. The company has the use of a pool there, big enough and deep enough to drive a HydroSpeeder around in, and they offer free lessons to anyone purchasing a K-10.

Source Citation
Harrigan, Bill. "Flying - underwater! The K-10 hydrospeeder." Skin Diver June 1998: 28+. General OneFile. Web. 27 Nov. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:A20773093

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