Oceanic research steps into the future as sci-fi vessel SeaOrbiter gets funding

The world’s most futuristic-looking research vessel could soon be setting sail after it met its crowdfunding goal of €325,000.

Designed by marine architect Jacques Rougerie, SeaOrbiter will drift with oceanic currents to explore areas of the ocean that have never been studied before.

SeaOrbiter is designed to address the shortage of ocean research that has been undertaken. 90% of the ocean is still unexplored, and it is estimated that two thirds of marine species are yet to be discovered.

Looking like a moveable version of the Operation Hennessey Underwater SeaLab from the film the Life Aquatic, the vessel features a vertical wind turbine and solar panels to generate power; an 18.5m high lookout post; a diving room and wet lab; a modular laboratory, medical and fitness areas; underwater bunks and pressurised living quarters and a variety of underwater dive pits.

SeaOrbiter is also kitted out with a range of support vessels and subsea exploration devices, including a diving drone capable of exploring the oceanic abyss at depths up to 6,000m – far deeper than it is possible for humans to travel.

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First and foremost, SeaOrbiter is a research vessel with the capability to gather and analyse data. However, it will also serve as a multimedia communications platform, churning out educational programming that has been entirely shot and edited onboard. And that’s not all: the pressurised living areas also enable SeaOrbiter to function as a space simulator.

The vessel is uniquely able to house a crew of 18 – 22 people to live onboard for long periods of time in remote areas of the ocean. Typically expeditions would last for three to six months, although the crew could remain onboard for much longer if required.

The crew would be made up of six ship operators, four scientific researchers, two multimedia operators and six ‘aquanauts’ developing research programmes.  But they won’t just be adrift and unsupported – a shore-based team will remain in constant touch to collect data and ensure everything goes smoothly.

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In a sense, SeaObiter has been more than forty years in the making. The vessel’s designer and champion Jacques Rougerie has a long-standing background in marine design, and has been developing undersea structures for decades.

His 1973 project with NASA to develop an underwater research village has been instrumental in our view of undersea living, and he has produced several landmark vessels for oceanographic exploration. Rougerie seems to have been working towards SeaOrbiter for most of his career, but only now has the technology come of age.

The project was funded through French crowdfunding website Kiss Kiss Bank Bank, with 664 people handing over between €10 and €40,000+ to raise a total of €344,650. In a video uploaded to the SeaOrbiter website, Rougerie thanked his supporters. He said: “We registered more than 600 contributors, including 20 big donors and one family who highly contributed to it”.

Now SeaOrbiter has received funding the challenge of building it can start. Rougerie expects construction to take two years, so by 2016 we could be following the launch of this remarkable vessel.


Images courtesy of SeaOrbiter.


Supersonic passenger plane to use giant screens instead of windows

Passengers on long haul flights often while away the hours starring aimlessly out the windows at the passing scenery however, the group behind the world’s first commercial supersonic plane have decided it is best if they do without windows.

Instead Spike Aerospace has decided to use giant screens inside the passenger cabin which will show what is happening outside the plane.

It says that removing windows will reduce the challenges in designing and constructing the aeroplanes fuselage. Windows require extra support and add to the number of parts that are needed as well as the overall weight of the plane.

Also a smoother outer skin of the plane will help to reduce the drag when flying at high speeds.

In a post on its website Spike Aerospace say: “The interior walls will be covered with a thin display screens embedded into the wall. Cameras surrounding the entire aircraft will construct breathtaking panoramic views displayed on the cabin screens.”

Passengers will be allowed to dim the screens if they want to sleep or be able to change it to any number of images stored in the plane’s system.

This could cause problems for those wanting to sleep when others are working or wanting to eat. It’s not worth considering how uninspiring the plane will be if the screens break.

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The new supersonic jet will allow passengers to reach destinations in half the time it currently takes, the company claims. It says flying from New York to London will take three-four hours instead of the six-seven hours it currently takes and it says LA to Tokyo will take eight hours instead of 14-16.

At present commercial airliners fly at speeds of around 567mph, but the planned Spike S-512 plane is targeting speeds of 1,060-1,200mph for its slights.

The company say: “We expect the first customers for the jet will be businesses and their management teams that need to manage global operations more efficiently.

“They will be able to reach destinations faster, evaluate more opportunities and have a bigger impact on their enterprises.”

In short, the jet is being designed for the select few on corporate accounts who will be able to afford the flight costs in the initial stages.

But it appears virtual environments aren’t only going to be used for the super wealthy as only weeks ago cruise ship company Royal Caribbean announced its latest cruise shop would play host to ‘virtual balconies’ for those in the worst rooms.

The ship company intends that virtual balconies will comprise of an 80-inch LED screen on the wall of 373 rooms in its latest boat, the Quantum of the Seas.

If the company’s images are to be believed sea-goers will be able to enjoy the best views around the boat without having to put up with sea air or, if caught in a storm be able to change their view to that of a sunny day.


Image courtesy of Spike Aerospace.