European student submarine challenge comes to UK this summer

Student-powered submarines will be taking to the depths near Portsmouth this summer, as the European International Submarine Race (eISR) returns to the UK.


Hosted by Qinetiq at its Ocean Basin facility in Gosport, the competition will see 12 university teams racing their submersibles around a demanding slalom course. Teams must design, build and race flooded submarines piloted by a single scuba diver, who must be fully enclosed within the hull of the machine. All propulsion power must be provided by the diver during the race (i.e. no energy storage devices such as flywheels or batteries are allowed), but otherwise the design rules are open to whatever innovation teams decide to use.

Taking place on July 13th, the event is designed to draw talented engineers into the marine sector and cultivate the essential skills – such as leadership, problem-solving and working to strict deadlines – they will eventually require in their careers. The combination of design constraints and design freedom is aimed at stimulating the challenges confronted in real-world engineering projects and has led to ground-breaking designs, such as that of the submarine by the Canadian world-record breakers with their innovative propeller at the 2012 races.


Past teams have designed a wide variety of machines, propelled either by standard rotating propellers or by novel non-propeller thrusters. Regardless of the propulsion system selected, the basic design and build process boils down to five components: hull, propulsion, transmission, pilot safety & ergonomics, and control. The levels of sophistication applied to all of these components are up to each team – it is possible to do well with just a hull, some fins, and a recycled bicycle, but to really excel requires some serious thought and careful manufacturing.

The 2018 races are sponsored by Qinetiq, Defence Equipment & Support, Babcock International and Sea Cadets UK.