French engineers test pedal-boat submarine

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SAINT-JEAN-CAP-FERRA, France (Reuters Life!) - A team of engineers plan to venture where no man has gone before after unveiling a pedal-boat submarine on the French Riviera.

Nicknamed “the Scubster”, the 3.5 meter-long one-man yellow submarine has echoes of the fancy gadgets from fictional spy James Bond.

Powered by twin propellers connected to a pedal belt, the mini-sub can reach speeds of 8 km an hour (5 mph) if its pilot is in good shape, and can reach depths of 6 meters (20 ft).

“I’ve been up in the air by pedaling, underwater with my bike and now underwater with a submarine,” Stephane Rousson, the man behind the invention, told Reuters.

The vessel managed an hour under water in the Mediterranean waters off the Cote d’Azur this week and is entirely controlled by hand or pedal. Hermetically sealed, the passenger breathes with a mask and a bottle of oxygen.

Whether it will have commercial success remains to be seen, but Rousson believes it may capture the attention of an emerging high-end market of yacht owners with “pocket submarines”.

“And if it doesn’t take off, I’ll race it,” said the 40-year old from Nice, who plans to take part in the 2011 International submarine race in the United States.

Writing by John Irish; Editing by Steve Addison