Keywords : nautile


The submersible giving access to 97% of the world's ocean floors

The Nautile is a manned submarine designed for observing and operating at depths reaching 6000 metres. Since it was commissioned in 1984, 1500 dives have been performed from oceanographic vessels like Nadir or l’Atalante.

Fields of operation

  • Exploration of specific zones
  • High precision bathymetry and physical measurements
  • Collecting samples and manipulating special tools
  • Assistance for offshore assignments
  • Cable and pipeline layouts and inspection
  • Assistance for submersibles in distress
  • Search, location, investigation and assistance in raising wrecks
  • Operation on polluting wrecks


  • French and foreign scientific teams
  • Oil companies
  • Foreign and French Navies
  • Investigation commissions
  • Expert assessments, wreck-finding (RMS Titanic, Prestige) and special intervention
  • Archaeological research
  • Foreing and French television teams


The Nautile provides the following functional features:

  • Direct viewing, via three portholes with a wide field of vision and six floodlights providing both colour range and restitution
  • Video and still camera shots
  • Object detection on panoramic sonar
  • Manipulation and sampling using two arms and an isothermal basket (retractable)
  • Carrying additional equipment, special tools or sampling capacity increase
  • Surface positioning using either a long baseline system (beacons on sea bed) or an ultra-short baseline system (sensor aboard the support ship)
  • In-vehicle positioning combining measurements of distance to beacons with position reckoning made using the measurements of the submersible speed and attitude
  • Acquisition and recording on board the vehicle of navigational data and measurements taken by its sensors: altitude, pressure, temperature, heading, speed and time
  • Preparing, monitoring, archiving and examining data with VEMO+ and ADELIE softwares

And, as options:

  • Rather than the sampling basket, it is possible to install the Robin (ROBot d'Inspection du Nautile), a small robot remotely controlled from the Nautile, used for surveying, inspecting filming and taking photos of areas that are not accessible by the submersible,
  • Standard or special tools can be developed and taken on board upon request.

Technical specifications

The Nautile is quite lightweight in relation to its performance, and it can be launched from a support ship of relatively light tonnage and it is easily manœuvrable.

  • Working depth: 6000 m
  • Weight (for a 6000-m dive) : 19.50 t
  • Dimensions :
    • length: 8.00 m
    • width: 2.70 m
    • height: 3.81 m
  • Manned sphere:
    • crew: 3 men
    • inside diameter: 2.10 m
    • material: titanium alloy
    • portholes: 3 (120 mm in diameter)
  • Lead-acid battery power ; capacity at 6000 m:
    • 37 kWh in 230 V
    • 6.5 kWh in 28 V
  • Pitch and trim control adjusted by mercury pump: ± 8°
  • Main propulsion: 1 adjustable axial thruster
    • longitudinal displacement speed: 1.7 knots
    • radius of action at 1.5 knots: 7.5 km
  • Auxiliary propulsion:
    • 2 vertical thrusters
    • 1 transversal bow thruster
    • 1 transversal aft thruster
  • Autonomy (working on seafloor) at 6000 m: 5 h
  • Remote control handling/manipulation:
    • 1 handling arm movable up to 4 degrees (+ claw opening and closing)
    • 1 manipulator arm movable to 6 degrees (+ claw opening and closing)
  • Hydraulic units: 2
  • Communications:
    • undersea telephone while diving
    • VHF transceiver on the surface
  • Equipment:
    • 1 altitude sounder
    • 1 sediment sounder
    • 1 panoramic sonar
    • 2 colour 3-CCD video cameras
    • 1 still camera photo with 300 and 600 J flashes
    • 1 digital still camera
    • two 650 W iodine floodlights
    • five 400 W H.M.I. floodlights
    • 1 data acquisition and navigation unit
    • 1 sampling basket
  • Scientific equipment payload: 200 kg
  • Safety:
    • additional life support: 120 h
    • 9 emergency pyrotechnic devices
    • 1 emergency locating device


A waterproof box is provided outside the vehicle for scientific equipment and it presents the following characteristics:

  • Gross available volume: 330 x 350 x 300
  • Possible mounting of a 4U 3/4 19", 180-deep rack
  • Power supplies: 240 VDC and 28 VDC
  • Links to the sphere:
    4 built-in remote controls
    1 pre-cabled link with 5 single wires and 1 armored pair for ground bus
  • Connection to the vehicle optional network under study

All details on interfaces for scientific equipment will be found in:

Spécification d’interface des équipements scientifiques du Nautile référence 0170 08 50 00 SU/B

available upon request to the Ifremer Underwater Systems Department (04 94 30 48 62) or the GENAVIR Underwater Vehicles Department (04 94 30 47 17) at the Mediterranean Center in Toulon - La Seyne.

Shipboard installation

The Nautile can be taken on board two French oceanographic vessels: the Pourquoi pas ? and L’Atalante. Both ships are equipped with a 20-t stern A-frame that is used to safely lower and hoist the submersible.

The Nautile's gear includes:

  • The submersible itself
  • 1 handling trolley
  • 5 standard containers (6,60 m L x 2,45 m W x 2,6 m H):
    • mechanical maintenance workshop
    • electronic maintenance workshop
    • hyperbaric decompression chamber container
    • beacon and photo container
    • container for surface navigational systems
  • Additional ballast with a volume depending on the campaign's duration (1000 kg per dive)
  • An outside oxygen reserve and an oxygen compressor

The Nautile's operational crew includes at least 8 men:

  • 2 pilots including 1 operational supervisor
  • 2 co-pilots specialized in electronics
  • 2 navigator specialists
  • 2 diver specialized in mechanics


The Nautile is operated and maintained by GENAVIR ; Ifremer is in charge of technical follow-up and new developments.

The main industrial partners involved in the submersible development are the following:

  • DCN (Naval shipyard division) in Toulon
  • EMERSON & CUMMING for synthetict foam
  • AMETEK/STRAZA for sonar
  • HYTEC for digital still camera
  • THALES, Ixsea Oceano for positioning system POSIDONIA
  • BENTHOS for flashes
  • CEAC/FULMEN for batteries
  • PYROALLIANCE for pyrotechnical jettisoning devices
  • UGINE for sphere
  • DEUTSCH, SOURIAU and FCI for connectics