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RC Submarine Basics

Ready-to-Run and Build Your Own Subs

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RC sub explores the pool.

RC sub explores the pool.

Photo © M. James
There are radio controlled models representing just about any kind of full-size vehicle that you can imagine (and some you can't). That includes vessels for underwater exploration. RC Submarines range in size from little bathtub or aquarium toys for in-home exploration to submarines that are as big as your bathtub designed for deep sea (or at least deep lake) exploration.

The submarine model hobby includes both static models meant only for display and radio controlled models that are intended for fun on and under the water. As with other RC vehicles, RC submarines have a hand-held controller that communicates with an on-board receiver enclosed in a water-tight compartment. Although the on-board electronics are built to be water-tight and submersible, the controller may not be. So don't jump in the pool and go underwater with your controller.

RC submarines can be purchased as Ready-to-Run (RTR) models or you can build RC submarines from kits (unassembled) or from scratch. The two main groups of RC submarines are toy subs and hobby-grade scale models. There are also RC working subs that come in radio controlled and remote control models. These research vessels are used for underwater photography and scientific exploration and generally built for a specific purpose. These aren't your typical RC subs that you get at Wal-Mart or your local hobby shop.

Ready-to-Run RC Submarines

Ready-to-Run RC submarines include both novelty toys for kids as well as larger, more elaborate RC subs that can provide hours of entertainment for adults. At the lower end of the price scale, these submersible toys generally have a limited range, may or may not look like real, full-size submarines and include other submersible toys such as RC sharks. Basic functions include going up and down (diving) and turning. Not all toy subs are meant for kids. Fancier subs with more authentic detailing, greater range, static diving systems, and upgradeable features can sometimes cost several hundred dollars or more. These RTR subs may be sold at toy stores as well as hobby shops and online.
Sea Scout Micro RC Submarine is an example of a toy RC suitable for use in a bathtub, aquarium, or small pool. The Motorworks SeaWolf Class Submarine is another pool or pond-sized sub made to look like real U.S. Navy subs. Clear the pool with an RC Shark that even has a controller that can go underwater.

Hobby-Grade Scale Model Submarines

RC submarine models are (usually) accurate models of past or present military or research vessels or literary subs such as those from books or movies. Not only do they have the look of their full-size counterparts, many also have much more realistic features including torpedoes propelled by compressed gas, lighting and working hatches, and ballast or dive tanks that take on and expel water to facilitate diving and resurfacing (static diving systems). Usually these types of RC submarines are built from kits or from scratch although some may come in almost RTR versions. The cost of building these RC subs can climb into the thousands of dollars.
Built from scratch, this 1:32 scale Nautilus RC reproduces Disney's Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The Krick U-Boat type VII Submarine is a display-quality combination surface boat and submarine that is assembled from an entry level kit.

Before you dive in to buying a RTR or a kit-built sub, plumb the depths of underwater RC fun: Dive! Dive! Dive!

Everything About Radio Controlled (RC) Vehicles
FAQs:Frequently Asked Questions About RC Vehicles, Answered
Basics:Types, Key Parts, and Operating RC Vehicles
Buying an RC:How to Choose the Right Radio Controlled Vehicle
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