Graham Hawke, director and founder of Hawkes Ocean Technology




Hawkes Ocean Technologies is a marine engineering firm that specializes in consumer submarines, founded by Graham Hawkes. It is headquartered in San Francisco.

Hawkes Remotes


Hawkes Remotes is a subsidiary that builds ROVs (remotely operated vehicles), unmanned robotic submarines.



Hawkes builds the DeepFlight range of submersibles, which uses hydrodynamic forces for diving, instead of ballast. The subs are all-electric. Most of them have two pairs of wings like an airplane's, one pair front and the other pair rear, shorter than an airplane's and the other way up so they push the submarine down.




DeepFlight submersibles

DeepFlight I 

DeepFlight I was sponsored by TV firms, and served as a technology testbed for DeepFlight II.


Wet Flight 

Wet Flight was used in filming of "Dolphins: The Ride"/


DeepFlight II 

DeepFlight II was designed on AutoCAD.


DeepFlight Aviator 

With an operational depth of 1500ft, the Aviator is the first of its kind positively-buoyant submersible. It relies solely on hydrodynamic forces to dive. It was designed completely on a computer.




DeepFlight Challenger 

The Challenger was designed for Steve Fossett's attempt at the world's deepest point, Challenger Deep.


DeepFlight Super Falcon

The SuperFalcon is much more maneuverable than all subs preceding it. Unlike most subs, it does not have a circular pressure hull. The first example was built for Tom Perkins, and launched in 2008. At the time of launch, it was the most advanced personal submarine in the world.


DeepFlight Merlin 

The initial example is called Necker Nymph and run by Virgin Limited Edition.


Deep Flight 1, underside, minisub for film work



Other submersibles


Deep Rover, a series of 1- and 2-seater subs that relied on conventional ballast systems for diving, designed by Hawkes, built by Deep Ocean Engineering. — Some of the 2-seaters were used on the documentary film "Aliens of the Deep". This submarine design set the former world solo dive depth record in 1985 at 1000m.

Deep Rover I

Deep Rover II — Deep Rover II was used in the Michael Crichton film "Sphere".

Mantis (submerisble), a one-man deep sea engineering sub designed by Hawkes, built by OSEL. — Mantis was used in the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only".

Wasp (diving suit), an atmospheric diving suit for deep sea engineering designed by Hawkes, built by OSEL.





Contact: Karen Hawkes info@deepflight.com


Marketing, Public Relations, Press
Karen Hawkes - VP, Marketing and Communications.



Speaking Engagements

Interested in hearing a unique perspective on a wide range of topics? From deep sea exploration, to ocean engineering· entrepreneurship to the importance of innovative thinking - Graham Hawkes, world renowned ocean engineer, inventor, entrepreneur, and explorer might be the right speaker for your group.







Winged submersible specialist Graham Hawkes has set his sights on making undersea exploration more affordable.

When film director James Cameron became the first man to complete a solo trip to the deepest point in the ocean, Graham Hawkes was happy to be thousands of miles away, diving in the two-man winged submersible he had built for billionaire businessman Tom Perkins. Of course, most people would be happy in this situation, and for Hawkes it’s a regular part of his routine - he has spent the past four decades designing manned underwater vehicles for research, industry and personal pleasure. But on that day he was particularly glad to be away from civilisation, as Cameron and his team were busy achieving what Hawkes had been striving for for more than 20 years.

The recent efforts of several groups to single-handedly reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean (oceanographers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard made the first journey in 1960) had become something of a media-constructed race. Cameron’s ‘competitors’ included one team backed by Virgin Oceanic that had bought the craft Hawkes designed for the late businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett. However, the DeepFlight Challenger vehicle had been ready for sea trials by the time Fossett died in 2007, and its creator was so confident it would succeed that for him the challenge was already complete.

‘No one understands this but, as an engineer, as soon as the numbers work out and you know it is possible, in some ways you’re done,’ said Hawkes. ‘I hope this doesn’t sound callous but by the time we lost Steve I had got out of that programme what I, as an engineer, wanted.’

Softly spoken with a US twang to his British accent that comes from years of living in California, Hawkes comes across as unassuming despite his achievements. He formerly held the world record for the deepest solo dive; he can recount tales of encountering a great white shark while flying under water with Richard Branson; and he even appeared in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, piloting the one-man submersible he helped design.



Yet back in the 1990s, he said, he was the only ‘nutcase’ working on a vehicle to take him to the depths of the Mariana Trench. And, crucially, he wanted to do it in a way that was much cheaper than previous missions by building a craft light enough (less than 10,000lb) not to need a dedicated launch ship. After years of failing to secure financial backing, he agreed to let Fossett - who had also long held a similar ambition - fly the craft in return for putting up the cash to build it.

‘I always felt it could be done for much less money - $5m instead of $100m,’ said Hawkes. ‘Anything more than 10,000lb is just too heavy to go and rent a ship as needed.’ Basing the craft on the most space-efficient shape - a cylinder - in order to reduce weight created the need for stronger materials to cope with extreme pressures. ‘We suddenly realised that we could get there with carbon,’ Hawkes said. ‘If we very efficiently wound carbon, fibre by fibre, then with the theoretical properties of the material - the strength-to-weight ratio - we could do it.’

Creating the viewing domes that Hawkes wanted added further complexity to the design. ‘We made life 10 times harder by the other goals we set,’ he said. ‘A steel sphere with a conical frustum viewport will answer the purpose of getting to the bottom of the ocean… But if you’re squinting through a little porthole, then why not just use a camera? If you’re going to go down there, let’s have panoramic vision or don’t bother. That requires a view dome and changes the complexity of the pressure hull enormously.’

Working very closely with Fossett on the design meant taking his input but also freed Hawkes from some typical constraints. ‘[Normally] I am not going to be responsible for taking away obvious basic safety systems but that’s what Steve and I were able to do with the design,’ he said. ‘We were able to pare this thing down to the bare minimum, which you have to do really for a record-breaking machine.’

Given the importance of Fossett to the vehicle’s design, it’s not surprising that when he disappeared while flying an aircraft over the Nevada desert the project came to a halt. ‘I felt that craft was so much Steve - and myself - that the programme best just stop,’ said Hawkes. ‘You can’t really just hand it to some third party and say “go for it”, so I didn’t try to find somebody else… I tell that story and it doesn’t make sense to most people. Most people see the end result only as going down; they don’t understand the engineering reward of having built and tested that machine.’



Rolling in the deep: DeepFlight Super Falcon can be launched without a dedicated support ship

After deciding it wasn’t worthwhile to mortgage his home to buy the craft from Fossett’s estate, Hawkes and his wife Karen decided to build their own vehicle and experience for themselves the wonder of flying through the ocean. So when the Virgin-backed team, led by entrepreneur and sailor Chris Welsh, resurrected the project, Hawkes had to think twice about returning. ‘I needed assurance it would be bought for its original purpose and not be used as a tour sub,’ he said. ‘I had to be pretty sure that I thought that the person making that dive knew what they were doing and what they were getting into.’

“Once you’ve achieved a goal, what it usually does is illuminate the next one”


After such a marathon process, Hawkes admitted that Cameron’s success stung. ‘It shouldn’t have, because it’s been a long time. He deserves that,’ he said circumspectly. ‘Life is like that - it hurt Steve much worse than it hurt me.’ But as well as the belief that DeepFlight Challenger could have made the journey much earlier had Fossett lived, Hawkes also had different goals from Cameron and it was these that led him to the craft he built for himself: the DeepFlight Super Falcon.

‘I was never in the race because I wanted to get under 10,000lb and I wanted to fly in the ocean,’ he said. ‘I’m hopeful that engineers might understand this; that once you’ve achieved a goal, what it usually does is illuminate the next one… This craft that we’ve built is the one I’m most proud of. Everyone’s going to ask “how deep does it go?” but I’ve been there and done that - I don’t care about that. What I want is a balanced capability to move in a three-dimensional space the way that big animals do.’

Now he has this capability, Hawkes isn’t leaving the submersible business behind to enjoy a retirement exploring the seas. He now aims to bring the costs down further so that thousands of people can have the experience so far limited to himself and a handful of billionaires - and hopes to make an announcement soon. ‘This is an ocean planet and there will be a Boeing of the future building craft to take us down, and I think we’re taking a shot at that,’ he said. ‘The full ocean-depth thing is a record but that means one man. We need to find something bigger than that.’







Corporate Sponsors

The Deep Flight project began in the early 1980's when three visionary companies, IMAX, TV New Zealand, and National Geographic TV, gave Graham Hawkes some preliminary funding to build the world's first winged submersible - when Deep Flight I was still a design on paper. In 1994, Rolex then stepped in and sponsored the grand launch of Deep Flight I, a globally covered media event hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

In the mid 1990's, Autodesk began supplying Hawkes Ocean Technologies with its design software, and beginning in 2000, Autodesk became the lead corporate sponsor of Hawkes Ocean Technologies. 

In 2005, Autodesk Inc. was named Founding Sponsor of Hawkes Ocean Technologies for its decade of support. Autodesk, Inc. is the world's leading design and digital content creation resource. The company provides software and Internet portal services to help customers drive business through the power of design. 

Autodesk serves more than 4 million customers in over 150 countries. Autodesk has been an ongoing sponsor throughout the development of many Deep Flight winged submersibles





1969 Degree in mechanical engineering, Borough Polytechnic


1970 Engineer at Plessey Underwater Weapons Unit 
1974 Chief engineer at Underwater Marine Equipment; worked on JIM diving suit 
1977 Co-founded Offshore Systems Engineering; designed the Wasp and Mantis diving systems 
1981 Founded Deep Ocean Engineering 
1985 Set the world record for deepest solo dive (3,000ft) 
1989 Founded Deep Sea Discoveries 
1996 Founded Hawkes Ocean Technologies to develop DeepFlight series of winged submersibles 
1997 Founded Precision Remotes 
2010 Founded Hawkes Ocean Sports to introduce a line of manned submersibles for adventure and recreation 
2010 Founded Hawkes Remotes to launch a new generation of ROVs





Hawkes Ocean Technology




The Engineer In Depth Interview Graham Hawkes November 2012

Aussies help director dive to bottom of deepest ocean for Avatar 2 John Harlow, 13 September 2010

CNET News, Oceans' salvation may lie in exploration Daniel Terdiman, 15 April 2010

Submarines For The Super-Rich 2010 May 11

The Future of Electric Aircraft 15 August 2010

DeepFlight I

Popular Science, "Underwater Airplane", D.S., March 1997, pp.25

DeepFlight, WetFlight (accessed 5 September 2010)

DeepFlight, Dophins: The Ride (accessed 5 September 2010)

DeepFlight, DeepFlight II (accessed 5 September 2010)

McGraw-Hill, "Applying AutoCAD 2000", Terry T. Wohlers, 1999, pp.632

DeepFlight Aviator (accessed 5 September 2010)

Computer Graphics World, "Flying Deep", D. Phillips Mahoney, March 2001, Vol.24, No.3

DeepFlight Challenger

Composites World, Deepsea submersible incorporates composite pressure capsule

DeepFlight, DeepFlight SuperFalcon 

CNET News, Steve Fossett's unfinished legacy: Deepest ocean exploration", Daniel Terdiman 3 October 2008 

BBC News, Underwater 'flying machine' launched", Maggie Shiels, 14 May 2009 (

USA Today, Personal submarine prepares for launch", Marco R. della Cava, 7 July 2008 

New Scientist,Winged submarine is Ferrari of the depths", 14 May 2009

Water way to travel! Super winged submersible that 'flies' through the ocean unveiled"

Sub Prime John Sedgwick, 21 April 2008

DeepFlight Merlin (accessed 5 September 2010)

Branson Takes You Flying Underwater Jason Paur, 3 February 2010 

Richard Branson Dives Into Personal Submarines With Hawkes Cassie Rodenberg, 11 March 2010

DeepFlight, Subs

Welcome to ANSYS Advantage!, Taking Next-Generation Submersibles to New Depths 2007

New York Times, SCIENTIST AT WORK: Graham Hawkes Black Sea 1993 August 3 

DeepFlight, Sphere 

Hawkes Ocean Technologies DeepFlight Submersibles





Solar Navigator triple hull SWASH trimaran tank test model


The Solar Navigator - SWASSH (Small Waterplane Area Stabilized Single Hull) test model 2012

The latest Solarnavigator is designed to be capable of an autonomous world navigation set for an attempt 

in 2015 if all goes according to schedule.





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