Richard Branson Unveils New 'Flying Submarine'

Apr 6, 2011, 10:25 by Victor Ryan

Adventurer and British tycoon Richard Branson revealed his newest project Tuesday--a one-man "flying submarine" that he claims can reach the ocean's deepest depths some seven miles below.

According to a video made to trumpet the device, the Virgin Oceanic Sub has the ability to reach Marinas Trench in the Pacific Ocean, which reaches 36,201 feet below the ocean and is regarded as the deepest known point in the ocean. Branson said he plans to make five dives in five oceans during a two-year span that will result in around 30 Guinness World Records.

Branson said in a statement the Virgin Oceanic Expedition is "assist science in understanding our eco system and raise awareness of the challenges facing our Oceans," according to the Christian Science Monitor.

He elaborated on the endeavor in a blog post Tuesday.

"What if I were to tell you about a planet, inhabited by 'intelligent' beings that had, in the 21st Century, physically explored 0 percent of its deepest points and mapped only 3 percent of its oceans by unmanned craft, when 70 percent of that planet's surface was made up of water.

"Then I tried to convince you that only 10 percent of the life forms inhabiting that unknown world, are known to those on the surface--you'd think I'd fallen asleep watching the latest sci-fi blockbuster! Then you discover that planet is Earth..."

Branson will himself man the craft to these unknown depths. He said his team will sample microbes, sediment and water and will map unknown ocean floors with the assistance of Google, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

The craft measures nearly 5.5-meters long and resembles an airplane with short wings and a cockpit, according to the Associated Press.

Branson has undergone a wide range of adventures and challenges in the last couple of decades.

Most recently he launched Virgin Galactic, a commercial spacecraft designed to fly passengers to outer space. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the company has already conducted several successful test flights.