The Cyclops submersible, built in collaboration with Everett, Wash., submersible company OceanGate, will take passengers to 9,842 feet -- deeper than all but a handful of existing subs -- when it is completed in 2016, the university said in a release.
"What a terrific asset for the UW to have access to one of the few available manned submarines in the United States," Robert Miyamoto of the university's Applied Physics Laboratory said. "If someday students routinely had the opportunity to go on a manned sub I think the research in deep-ocean science would explode."
Members of Miyamoto's team have been working with OceanGate, and the group has gone through more than 20 prototype designs before settling on a final version.
"Most people don't appreciate there are not very many private or commercial subs," OceanGate head Stockton Rush said, explaining there are about 600 military subs worldwide but only about 100 certified civilian subs, most of them on private yachts or in storage.
Miyamoto and Rush said the Cyclops would incorporate modern control systems, replacing the many dials and levers used on today's submersibles with joysticks and more automated control systems that will allow it to operate with a single pilot.
"It's like going from Model T to the Tesla," Rush said.
Despite a recent emphasis on autonomous vehicles, Miyamoto and Rush said they believe there is a place for human presence in deep-sea exploration.
"I grew up in a Jacques Cousteau world, with a lot of emphasis on oceanography, and it just feels like it's waned since then," Miyamoto said. "Pragmatically, it's nice to advance the state of the science, but I would do it just for the exploratory aspect."
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