Earlier this week, my wife and I had the opportunity to see a unique water craft first-hand and meet with its inventor, Thomas “Doc” Rowe. Doc and his assistant, Ben Morson, had previously invited us to visit their Noland Corporation research and development facility in northern California and as we drove away Thursday afternoon my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Wow!”
The working prototype we were shown is known as the Bionic Dolphin and is in a class of watercraft known as variable attitude submersible hydrofoil (VASH). Basically a surface vehicle, the Bionic Dolphin is able to submerge thanks to small, controllable “fins” on either side of the sleek, dolphin-shaped fuselage. The model we saw was a two-seater powered by a marine-grade Corvette engine capable of pushing the Dolphin across the surface at an astounding 55 mph! Because the occupants are fully enclosed in a jet-fighter looking cockpit, the craft can execute 360-degree rolls and short periods of complete submergence with ease. This makes the Bionic Dolphin an excellent craft for use in rough waters and larger versions of the Dolphin are already being considered for use as rescue craft in the North Atlantic.
When running on auxiliary electrical power, the Dolphin can descend to a depth of fifty feet and run almost silently, making it an excellent vehicle for marine biologists and other underwater explorers. And, due to its unique hull design, the Bionic Dolphin is one of the safest watercraft ever conceived. Naturally buoyant, even with a full crew aboard, the Dolphin submerges through the use of its own forward motion and the afore-mentioned fins. In the case of an engine failure, the craft simply glides back to the surface!
Rowe is a life-long surfer and his unique design for the Bionic Dolphin is the result of studying real dolphins and other marine creatures for years. This study, along with Doc’s talent as an engineer and fabricator, has produced a water craft that is truly amazing. For more information, visit http://www.bionicdolphin.com and look for the Dolphin when it goes on tour next summer.