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Dive! Dive! Dive!

Taking Your Sub Underwater


RC sub toy in action

RC sub toy in action

Animation by M. James
RC subs operate primarily below the surface of the water. Discover the best bodies of water, how subs go underwater, and what to do if you lose your RC sub to the murky depths.

Best Bodies of Water

Because the sub is underwater, the best place to use an RC submarine is in clear, see-through water. And as long as the sub is below the surface you can have fun. It doesn't have to go deep.

If the water is too dark or too deep it could limit your enjoyment. Salt, chlorine, and other suspended particles in the water reduce radio reception. For the best radio reception (and thus better control) of your RC sub, clear water is best. A clean aquarium, not-too-heavily chlorinated pool, or a freshwater lake that is free of debris and suspended particles are ideal. Although some RC subs may have a range of 15 to 25 feet or more, keeping your sub around a depth of 5-6 feet or so provides plenty of excitement and minimizes the risk of losing it to the dark depths of a lake or river.

If you don't have ready access to a pool or other larger body of water, consider getting a micro sub that can fit in a medium to large aquarium or even a full bathtub. You can enjoy your sub without ever leaving home.


One of the key features that sets RC subs apart is the method of diving. The two types of subs are dynamic divers and static divers.

Dynamic Diving System
With dynamic divers, the subs use their control surfaces (the fins or hydroplanes) and speed to force them under the water. If they slow down or stop moving, they return to the surface. RC subs with a dynamic diving system typically have a 3-channel controller for throttle, diving planes, and turning (rudder). Other channels may be present to control added features such as lights or periscopes.

This RaidenTech mini RC Sub has dynamic diving as well as a 2-motor system that allows it to spin turn. The Sea Scout Micro RC Submarine uses downward thrust for dynamic diving in the bathtub, aquarium or kiddie pool.

Static Diving System
Static diving RC subs have some means of changing the weight of the RC such as by filling ballast or dive tanks with water. This assists them in submerging. To return to the surface the sub dumps the extra weight in order to regain bouyancy and return to the surface. Static diving systems may use electric motors, pumps, or some form of compressed gas to fill or empty the ballast tanks. Static divers will have a minimum of 4 channels on the controller including a control for the ballast (adding and removing weight) as well as extra channels for torpedoes or other added features.

This US Navy Los Angeles Class nuclear submarine has a ballast system with pump in addition to 1:96 scale realism in appearance. The Graupner U-16 Mini RC Submarine is a tiny, toy RC that also features a motor-controlled dive tank for static diving.

Lost at Sea

What goes down, must come up? Not always. The simplest way to avoid losing your sub to the bottom of the pool or lake is to be sure you are using fresh batteries, operate in clear water, and don't go deeper than you're willing and able to dive yourself to recover a stuck sub. Some subs, including toy subs come equipped with failsafe systems that will automatically cause the sub to surface if it runs out of power or there is a loss of radio signal.

When your sub does become lost and won't resurface it could be ensnared in weeds or other debris. Shut off the propeller and turn off the controller. Jump in and get wet. If you are operating in deep water, bring along a mask and fins and swim gear. Here is more advice on recovering a lost RC submarine.

You can swim across the surface and dive under the surface. Then what? Get some ideas for how to enjoy your RC submarine.

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