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RC-Submarine Q&A

Captain Nemo's Nautilus
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Ever wondered what are the basic questions that everybody ask when they start in RC Subs?  Well, I'll try to answer them right here.

Question- Can they really go underwater?
AnswerWell, yes (that's why they're called "submarines" :) ) that is why subs hold an attraction to the people that sees them.  With the ability to go underwater and pop-up somewhere else undetected, you attract a large crowd wherever you run them!
Q- How do they do it? (Go underwater?)
A- Well, this question has popped up in so many places that we had to answer it:  Basically, there are two ways:  Dynamic diving, diving with inclined diving planes and speed (see RC Sub Modelling) and there's stactic diving, diving with ballast tanks and more realistic.
Q- Which is better?  Dynamic or Static?
A- Your choice really, for a beginner, a dynamic submarine might seem to be a good solution.  Dynamic divers are cheaper and easier to build.  With a static diver however, you have to invest more money and time, with the addition of a ballast tank, they are generally speaking, more harder and complex to build.  Also you have to add an extra radio channel for static divers to work (ballast tanks,etc)
Q- What sort of radio should I use?
A- When you buy an RC Sub kit, radio equipment is usually not included.  So when you actually come to buy your radio, it is best to chose a surface frequency (27, 49 or 75 MHz) as aircraft frequencies cannot be used to operate boats.  With a dynamic diver you should use a 3 channel radio (Throttle, Rudder, Diving planes).  With a 4 Channel radio, you can add a ballast tank to make your sub stactic diving.
Q- Are they hard to build?
A- Well, if you put your time and mind to it, no.  Most people usually go with a commercially made kit.  You always scratchbuild yours but it will at least take more/less time depending on your modelling experiences.
Q- Is building an RC Sub cheap?
A- NO! One sentence should justify the meaning:  "You cannot get a fully operational RC Sub for less than a hundred dollars!"  First, you have to get a hull, a kit will probably cost over 100-400$ plus the additional RC equipment (that's another hundred) paint and supplies, will have to be added in the total too.  I won't say the price but you get the idea right? :)
Q- What sort of ballast should I use if I build a static diver?
A- To say what sort of ballast tank is better is like to say, what type of sub should I build?  So to answer that question (others might disagree with me here), it will really depend on your area of interest really.   Piston tanks are really easy to operate, Gas powered tanks are more complicated to build and manuever, while Pump ballast tanks sometimes do not allow you to get full static diving capabilities. depending on ballast tank size.  I will have a section dedicated to ballast tanks later on.
Q- What colour should I paint my sub?
A- You can paint your sub the colour it should be, military and scale submersibles often have their real colours found in references.
While fantasy subs' (the ones that you build with your own design) colours are usually imagined by their creators, it is best to paint your sub a bright colour so that it can be seen easily underwater, yellow, orange, etc.  Or black/grey,etc, if you don't navigate in murky waters that is.

What to do if your sub is sunk.
       If your sub expresses any symptoms of radios glitches or navigation problems, STOP THE MOTOR OR ANYTHING THAT IS RUNNING IMMEDIATELY, why?  Because usually when something is wrong, we do a semi-turn on the rudder and try to steer the sub back to shore, no no.  You see, you might never know what is happening inside your sub, running something in case of trouble could lead to a short circuit senario, cause something terrible, and lead your sub to the deep.  When you stop the motor (and other working devices), you're preventing an accidental failure of a chain reaction of radio problems, etc.
Ok, so now your sub is down deep, into the pond, you have no idea of where it is, or what have become of it...  Now, before you start crying and swearing, you might try these following methods:
  • Try to locate where your sub was last seen
  • use something to mark your sub's location (buoy, etc)
  • If you have your wet suit handy, go for a swim!  Be careful, if you are not a certified diver or cannot swim... DO NOT try to get in the water, you do not know what is down at the bottom of the pond, lake!  Muddy, sandy bottoms could keep you trapped for good, or worse, SEAWEED!!
  • Diving is not your strength?  Try to use something like a stick (with a hook or something) to grab your sub with.  Commanding a paddle boat while doing this might help.
  • Well if the above methods don't work, hire a professional diver to do the searching once more, if he can find it!  Consider yourself lucky!




What do I do to prevent the above problem?
The first thing to do before you put your sub to sea is to get a failsafe, these are either, released buoys to indicate where your sub is sunk or ballast blowing devices triggered by the lost of radio signals.  Subtech, a company accessible through my Vendors page, sells various electronic equipments for your sub. 
I know that when you first put your sub is the water, you always have that nervous feeling that comes over your spine.  So when I test or run my subs for the first time, I usually run it along the shore, just for worries' sake!

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