As a tool for geographic exploration, the DSV Limiting Factor is one of the most uniquely-capable, piloted vehicles in seafaring history. The submersible, built by Triton Submarines of the United States, is fully certified to commercial safety standards – unlike any pervious deep-diving submersible – and packed with the latest in deep water technology. Typically, first-generation deep water subs like the US Navy’s Trieste, called bathyscapes, were filled with lighter-than-water fuel to allow for buoyancy much like a balloon that floats in the air. The Limiting Factor, however, is constructed with glass-bead based “syntactic” foam which is far more durable and able to withstand the enormous pressure placed on the sub as it descends thousands of meters beneath the waves, and do so repeatedly without significant deformation or stress fractures developing over time.
The two-person control capsule has space for a pilot and passenger, is constructed of titanium alloy, and has three viewports featuring full-ocean depth capable acrylic-based lenses. Machined with extreme precision to less than 1 millimeter of variance across its near-perfect spherical shape, the capsule and its components have been repeatedly stressed in dedicated test chambers to 120% of full ocean depth with no negative anomalies detected.
The submersible has multiple-redundant analog life support systems and dual-redundant L-3 underwater telephone modems for communication with the surface. For long-distance communications on the surface, the vessel has VHF radio as well as an Iridium satellite beacon and satellite telephone communication suite which allows for nearly seamless transmission of verbal contact between the crew onboard the Pressure Drop support ship and those within Limiting Factor on the surface or when underwater.
The DSV Limiting Factor is the first fully commercial accredited and insurable full ocean depth (FOD) manned submersible. The official certification of the vessel to FOD by is overseen by an independent third party, the world-standard credentialer of maritime vessels DNV-GL (Det Norske Veritas Germanischer Lloyd). This firm has taken part in every step of the design, machining, construction and testing process – meaning that the sub is fully vetted and can be trusted by all who utilize it to repeatedly dive to extreme Hadal depths.