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What is an underwater scooter?

What is an Underwater Scooter?

In short, an underwater scooter is a battery-powered device that allows users to travel through the water with minimal effort. 

Looking to get your first underwater scooter? This is a great place to start! Come along as we prep you with all of the basics and more!

Table of Contents - What is an Underwater Scooter? 

Want to read ahead? Tap one of the questions below.

  1. What are Underwater Scooters?
  2. How do Underwater Scooters Work?
  3. Where do Underwater Scooters Originate?
  4. What are the Different Types of Underwater Scooters?
  5. Who Uses Underwater Scooters?
  6. What are the Benefits of Underwater Scooters?
  7. Are Underwater Scooters Safe?
  8. What Underwater Scooter Should I Get?
  9. Conclusion
  10. References

What are Underwater Scooters?

What are underwater scooters?

Underwater scooters, also referred to as diver propulsion vehicles (DPV), underwater propulsion vehicle (UPV), swimmer delivery vehicles (SDV), sea scooters, or water scooters are battery-powered devices that help users get around underwater with little to no physical effort.

Underwater scooters are generally hand-held, but some manufacturers are now producing innovative hands-free models. They come in various sizes and designs, ranging from compact in size more suitable for recreational activities, to more robust models designed for technical diving expeditions or professional applications. 

They typically consist of a scooter body containing one or two electric motors, one or two propellers, one or more batteries, and control mechanisms such as triggers or safety locks. Some even come with displays or other innovative alert features.

To better understand what an underwater scooter is, we must know how they work and where they originate.

How do Underwater Scooters Work?

How do Underwater Scooters Work? Asiwo Manta Sea Scooter

Underwater scooters work by the use of a combination of a motor, generally powered by batteries, and the scooter's propeller(s) to produce thrust. This thrust propels the user through the water with little to no effort.

Like most power producing electric devices, the heart is the motor. In MOST cases with underwater scooters, this motor is electrically, or battery powered.

There are some underwater propulsion devices that are gas-powered, like the Aqua Scooter, and very few that are manually powered, like the SeaBike.

In this case, the underwater scooters we carry, and most commonly found have motors that are battery powered. The motor powers the propeller(s) that creates thrust, moving both the scooter and the user through the water.

Asiwo Manta underwater scooter x-ray gif of operation.

Okay, but what do I do to go? You as the user grips the handle(s), squeezes the trigger(s), and enjoy the ride! This operation may vary based on model as some underwater scooters have two handles, one handle, or no handles.

But what about steering these? That's easy! Steering is primarily done by tilting and adjusting your body. By doing so, you direct where the underwater scooter propels you.

Where do Underwater Scooters Orginate?

Early Military Use of Underwater Scooters and DPV

As with most advancements in technology, answers may vary, but the general consensus is that underwater scooters were first developed for military operations in World War II.

Different countries during that time found success implementing manned UPV and SDV, carrying one or two divers, for secret naval missions such as reconnaissance, mine clearing, and sabotage.

As war subsided, development continued and in the 1950's the general public starts to see some of the first DPV we are more familiar with today. Below we see one in action at Florida's Silver Springs.

Diver using an underwater scooter at Silver Springs.

We even got to see it on the big screen, as we see below, with James Bond in the 1965 classic, Thunderball.

007: James Bond in Thunderball with Underwater Scooter

Today we see all kinds of different underwater scooters, used in both recreation, professional, and military use.

What are the Different Types of Underwater Scooters?

The two main types of underwater scooters we see today are divided between recreational use and technical or professional use.

What divides these underwater scooters into these categories are their capabilities and their limitations. These are more easily discerned when comparing depth and battery ratings between underwater scooter models.

1. What are Recreational Underwater Scooters?

Sublue Vapor Recreational Underwater Scooter

Recreational underwater scooters are for use in less demanding activities that do not require robust features or capabilities.

Below is a list of recreational underwater scooter categories where you will commonly see these.

In short, recreational underwater scooters are generally more affordable, have battery run times around the one-hour mark, have depth limits of around 130ft or less, and are great for underwater attractions where you want to conserve energy while also enhancing your experience.

2. What are Technical and Professional Underwater Scooters?

What are technical underwater scooters? Dive Xtras BlackTip TECH.

Technical and professional underwater scooters are more advanced DPV that are designed to be used in more demanding underwater environments and tasks.

Below is a list of technical or professional underwater scooter categories where you will commonly see these.

Due to the role these underwater scooters are made for, they typically feature more powerful motors, higher capacity batteries, durable materials for extreme environments, redundant safety features, advanced buoyancy controls, and occasionally sophisticated navigation or other monitoring systems.

Beyond these specific categories, those in diver-oriented professions will often opt for underwater scooters of the same capacity.

Who Uses Underwater Scooters?

Underwater scooters are popular among scuba divers, freedivers, snorkelers, spear fishers, underwater photographers, and other enthusiasts. They are used in various applications such as recreational or technical diving, exploration, pool fun, marine conservation efforts, freediving, and more.

Let's dive into six common users of underwater scooters and how they benefit them individually.

1. Scuba Divers

Scuba diver underwater scooter RoboSea Seaflyer.

The most common user of underwater scooters is the scuba diver. These are people that dive everything from recreational reefs, wrecks, or others to more technical locations such as caves, cenotes, under ice, larger and deeper wrecks, or depths beyond 130 feet.

Why do scuba divers use underwater scooters?

Every diver is going to have their specific reason for using a DPV, but some reasons include energy conservation, improved air consumption, extended range, faster diving with additional or heavier equipment, accessing challenging or remote locations, overcoming personal limitations, and absolutely for the pure enjoyment they offer.

2. Free Divers

Freediving Underwater Scooter Sublue WhiteShark Tini

Free divers, similar to snorkelers are another common user. Freediving will vary based on whether or not someone is engaged in recreational freediving or someone who practices disciplined freediving such as static apnea or dynamic apnea.

Why do free divers use underwater scooters?

Free divers may prefer to use underwater scooters for various reasons, but some of these include extended range, energy conservation, speed, efficient travel, quick ascents, getting through strong currents, and minimizing physical fatigue.

3. Snorkelers

Snorkeling Underwater Scooter Sublue WhiteShark MixPro

Snorkelers will generally be involved in more recreational activities, but this could also include spearfishing or freediving. Like free divers, snorkelers are often relying heavily on holding their breathe with little gear.

Why do snorkelers use underwater scooters?

Snorkelers use underwater scooters for extended range, energy conservation, increased speed, access to further locations, minimal environmental impact, overcoming any physical limitations, better navigation, exploring deeper waters, and of course because they're a blast to use!

4. Spear Fishers

Spearfishing is typically done with breath holds with or without a snorkel and sometimes with scuba gear. The spearfishing community continues to grow, and many are seeing the benefits of using underwater scooters while they fish, specifically with models that are more hands-free.

Why do spear fishers use underwater scooters?

Like snorkelers and free divers, spear fishers find plenty of similar benefits with underwater scooters. They use them for increased range and mobility, energy conservation, speed and stealth, access to more remote spearfishing sites, getting through stronger currents, quick ascents and returns, extended time underwater, minimizing fatigue, better coverage, and faster recovery of catch.

5. Photographers and Videographers

Underwater scooters have become popular with photographers and videographers who go below and obtain stunning marine life and other imagery. They have also been used to capture scenes in various movies.

A well-renowned and award cinematographer, Matthias Lebo, is pictured below using a LEFEET S1 PRO as a mobile mount for their photography rig.

Matthias Lebo Photography LEFEET S1 PRO Underwater Scooter

Why do photographers and videographers use underwater scooters?

Photographers and videographers use underwater scooters for extended coverage, energy conservation, stability for shooting steadier shots, speed and access, improved gear handling, adapting to environmental conditions, efficient positioning, and unique creativity with different positions.

6. Professionals

It's no surprise that if underwater scooters ultimately derived from professional use in the military, that they would also be used to assist in various current professions.

An example of professionals who use underwater scooters is the California Urchin Commission, who are engaged in the removal of invasive purple sea urchins.

The picture below is of a Dive Xtras BlackTip Exploration outfitted for underwater surveys by one of their veteran divers, Jon Holcomb.

Dive Xtras BlackTip Exploration outfitted by Purple Sea Urchin Diver Jon Holcomb

Another example where underwater scooters are used in professional work is with Ghost Diving. These divers are engaged in removing what is known as ghost gear, which includes abandoned nets and ropes that are a threat to marine life and the ocean as a whole.

The picture below is of a Ghost Diver from @ghostdivingorg with a Dive Xtras BlackTip TRAVEL inspecting a ghost rope prior to a safe removal.

Ghost Diving Foundation Dive Xtras BlackTip TRAVEL Underwater Scooter

Why do professionals use underwater scooters?

Those in dive professions may use underwater scooters for all of the same reasons as a normal technical diver would, but also for additional reasons such as extended working times, navigation through challenging environments, data collection and surveying, exploration and discovery, better documentation and reporting for detailed inspections or mappings, instructing, and improved cost efficiency for underwater operations.

What are the Benefits of Underwater Scooters?

We have seen some examples of who uses underwater scooters, but what are some of these benefits broken down?

Most benefits that underwater scooters provide are found with mobility, range, efficiency, safety, group coordination, and accessibility. Through all of this, we find that at the end of the day, underwater scooters are just plain 'ole fun!

1. Mobility

One of the biggest advantages of using an underwater scooter is mobility. You no longer are relying on finning alone and have the power of propulsion at your hands.

Underwater scooters allow for smooth and at times, completely effortless forward movement through the water. Increased mobility is beneficial when navigating through stronger currents, intricate terrains such as coral reefs, caves, and wrecks.

2. Range

Wanting to see more and plan your own dives instead of securing a boat?

Underwater scooters offer the opportunity to reach locations that you may have considered unattainable in the past. They enable you to travel greater distances without expending all that excessive energy from swimming giving you the opportunity to access remote or less frequented dive sites.

@desert_fpv and @beautyxbeast90 Instagram Dive Xtras BlackTip Underwater Scooters

Pictured above and captured with an Insta360 Camera, is Reuben and Julie Spaeth, frequent shore divers from the Marshall Islands, with their Dive Xtras BlackTip Underwater Scooters at a wreck site.

In this picture they are visiting the wreck of a Japanese patrol boat, approximately 120 meters from their entry point at the shore. It sits at 45 feet, which offers plenty to see for both advanced and newer divers. Depending on water conditions, visiting this site from the shore takes around 5-10 minutes with their underwater scooters.

Many of the unique dive sites they visit are showcased by their local dive shop, the Kwajalein Dive Center, and are within accessible range of those using underwater scooters.

3. Efficiency

Referring back to energy conservation, efficiency refers to the ability underwater scooters have for both recreational and technical divers to spend more time under the surface and completing tasks with far less fatigue.

Whether for recreational diving, photography, scientific research, or commercial applications, the increased efficiency provided by scooters means that divers can accomplish more during each dive, making their underwater activities more productive and enjoyable.

4. Safety

While not the first thing someone might think about when using underwater scooters, safety is amplified. Underwater scooters provide a quick exit and a reliable means of transportation in the event of an emergency.

Underwater scooters also enable users to stay within their dive limits and avoid overexertion. For rescue operations, they offer rapid response capabilities.

5. Group Coordination

Group coordination is one of those benefits that does require strong communication, but underwater scooters, traveling at similar or consistent speeds that do not relate to physical exertion ensures divers can move together.

It is also particularly more beneficial when the dive environments are more challenging or complex where separation can post a more serious risk. This is also great for dive training and other professional operations where coordination is critical.

6. Accessibility

Underwater scooters significantly enhance the opportunity of accessibility by those who have physical limitations. They enable these divers to participate in underwater activities, fostering a more inclusive and accessible diving experiences.

As seen below, underwater scooters such as the LEFEET S1 PRO can be mounted with the Leg Strap Kit or the Dual Scuba Tank Kit for far easier accessibility.

Physically Limited Accessible Underwater Scooter LEFEET S1 PRO

7. Underwater Scooters are FUN!

While underwater scooters do offer plenty of benefits that play a role in different activities, the addition of propulsion is just an enjoyable and different experience.

There are underwater scooters for everyone. If you don't already have one, using one in a pool to get a feel is a great start!

So, while they're great for numerous activities and professions...

Don't forget to enjoy the experience!

Are Underwater Scooters Safe?

Are Underwater Scooters Safe? Guide

Yes, underwater scooters can be safe. Taking the appropriate steps to seek out underwater scooter education and training, in addition to recognizing your own limitations, is an effective approach for users

Want to learn more about underwater scooter safety?

You're in luck! We have a whole guide, Are Underwater Scooters Safe?, where we cover it all. From exploring potential risks to detailing safety features and expert tips, we've got everything you need to have your own safe and exciting underwater scooter experiences.

What Underwater Scooter Should I Get?

Top 10 Underwater Scooters Under $500

Picking out an underwater scooter can be overwhelming. If you are on a budget or looking to get a starter, we highly recommend checking out our Top 10 Underwater Scooters Under $500 guide.

If you're looking to spend more, it is important to breakdown the options to make sure you get the best bang for your buck! 

Some items to consider when comparing underwater scooters are what you intend to use it for, key features, price, reviews, and post purchase product support.

What underwater scooter should I get? After reviewing the below items, check out our Best-Selling Underwater Scooters to find your application and start comparing.

1. Application

The number one thing to consider when getting an underwater scooter is determining what you plan to use it for. There are plenty of options that can do most, if not all, activities, and then there are some that are limited.

Are you recreationally scuba diving? Most underwater scooters can handle the Open Water depth limitations.

Looking to take it further and hit a cenote or cave? You might need something a little more advanced with longer runtimes and better buoyancy control.

Are you looking to up your spearfishing game? You might want something that is modular and not deterring you from using your hands when you need to use the speargun.

2. Key Features

Dive Xtras BlackTip Underwater Scooter Single Propeller

A large part of considering what underwater scooter to get are the features and specifications.

Some of the key features we recommend reviewing are the limitations or ratings of the underwater scooter, number of propellers, motor and power output, size, battery size, battery runtimes, battery charging times, whether or not the batteries used are easily sourced, and operation method.

3. Budget Consideration

Most recreational underwater scooters are available under the $1,000 mark and then beyond that they can shoot up to around $10,000 for the higher end models.

As with most items, you will pay for what you get. The higher price, the more features you may get for your investment. Determining the features you are in need of and comparing it to your budget is a great way to ensure you get an underwater scooter that will perfectly meet your needs without breaking the bank.

4. Reviews and Recommendations

Reviews and recommendations are largely considered when purchasing. It is important to look over these reviews for how an underwater scooter was used and if possible, for how long.

If you're looking for an underwater scooter for the pool, but someone tried to use it to go wreck diving beyond its depth ratings, this doesn't mean the underwater scooter is worthless altogether.

5. Post Purchase Product Support

One final item to consider that is often overlooked is whether or not the brand purchased has product support or available documentation available for underwater scooter troubleshooting in the future.

There are numerous brands that may be found on auction websites where sellers or brands may not offer anything beyond the initial sale, leaving customers with no way to address or troubleshoot their underwater scooter later.

What is an Underwater Scooter? - Conclusion

What Underwater Scooter Should I Get?

An underwater scooter is a propulsion device powered by batteries that increases underwater mobility. 

Whether you're diving into recreational activities or embarking on technical expeditions, underwater scooters offer versatility and efficiency.

From their origins in military operations to their evolution into indispensable tools for divers and professionals alike, these devices have transformed underwater exploration as we know it.

With various types catering to different needs, from recreational enjoyment to professional tasks, underwater scooters provide extended range, energy efficiency, enhanced safety features, and improved group coordination. They also break barriers by making underwater activities accessible to individuals with physical limitations.

Have underwater scooter experiences or uses you would like to share? Comment below!

References

  1. Curator, U. (2016, September 23). MK 7 Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV). U. S. Naval Undersea Museum. https://navalunderseamuseum.org/mk7-sdv/
  2. Mozert, Bruce, 1916-2015. Diver using an underwater propulsion vehicle at Silver Springs. 1950 (circa). State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/343804>
  3. Thunderball. (n.d.). James Bond 007. https://www.007.com/the-films/thunderball/

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