Taniwha preparing to defend its world title

06 May 2016
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Taniwha mid-flight at Westwave in Henderson.

Professor Iain Anderson and his team at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) are hoping to repeat their winning success with their human-powered submarine Taniwha at the 2016 European International Submarine Race in England. Members of the public will be able to meet the submarine and the team up close during an open day.

Built by Professor Anderson and his team using their research at the biomimetics lab, Taniwha outdid expectations at the 2015 Race. It won first place in its class (non-propeller single pilot), reaching 3.65 knots or 1.878m per second over a 100m long dragstrip. It narrowly missed creating a new record for a submarine of its kind.

This year’s race will take place from 6 – 15 July in Gosport, England. It will be Taniwha’s third international outing, competing against teams from Canada, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Oman, United Kingdom, and the United States. The team is hoping that innovations developed in Auckland over the past 12 months will let them gain the extra knot in speed that they need to beat their own fastest time and hopefully set a new record.

The human-powered 3m-long submarine is made of fibreglass and weighs just 60kg. It is driven by a pilot using scuba gear who remains submerged while using pedals to power fins to drive the submarine through the water. Historically fin propulsion has proved comparable to propeller submarine teams, showing fin propulsion underwater is both reliable and fast – just as it is for fish.

This year, race organisers are hosting a special open day on Saturday 9th July for the public to meet the teams and see the submarines. It will be held at the Hillsea Lido in Portsmith, England,  and ABI’s Director Professor Peter Hunter, along with the Taniwha team will be participating. Alumni and friends of the University of Auckland are encouraged to attend and meet the team.

The team needs your help to showcase New Zealand engineering to the world and defend their world title. They have set up a “Give A Little” page where members of the public can help fund the team’s travel to England for the competition.

Video of Taniwha midflight

Watch a video of the Taniwha midflight at a recent test at Westwave, Henderson.


Portrait of

Iain Anderson
Associate Professor
Biomimetics (Group lead)