Deepsea Challenger

Product + Engineering + Production


How do you keep James Cameron happy for eight hours in a one metre sphere 11,000 metres underwater? 

D+I were selected by James Cameron and Ron Allum of the Acheron Project as the preferred Australian industrial design team to develop the cockpit layout for the Deepsea Challenger's record dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. At 10,924 metres deep, the Mariana Trench is the deepest point in the world’s oceans (deeper than Mount Everest is high). With such tremendous depths and extreme pressure involved, the success of the project hinged on our ability to minimise risk and keep the pilot safe and able to drive the sub. 




Crushing depths, impossible heights.

We started our discovery by listening to the pilots and uncovering every process and anticipated need required for the record dive. We questioned the specialist engineers at Acheron Project to be clear on the risks involved with such an extreme dive. There were many complex variables and constraints to work with — a fire means the pilot can't breathe or see, too much weight would compromise the sub's finely-tuned buoyancy, any moisture build-up could cause critical systems to fail, and excessive fatigue or discomfort would affect the pilot's ability to control the dive. 



A world first.

Hours were spent with James Cameron and the Acheron team moving foam models of hardware around the simulator, updating seat designs, throwing ideas out and trying innovative new ones. 

These mock-up sessions were invaluable, they allowed us to follow the pilot through the dive — we were able to focus on ergonomics and look at hatch entry/exit techniques, how we can launch the sub with the pilot on their back and then change their orientation during the decent, what activities they would run through during the dive, and how they would ascend. We took hours of video and thousands of photos, constantly reworking our ideas until a viable design solution began to emerge. 

The project proved to be the most significant undertaking in D+I's 30+ years in business. We were thrilled when Deepsea Challenger took out the 2012 Good Design Award of the Year — it serves to demonstrate our ability to work at the very highest level.