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An Aqua Scooter® is a type of small personal watercraft (PWC) that can operate either at the surface or when slightly submerged. The first Aqua Scooter® was designed by an East German engineer in 1967, and was used as part of a plan to escape to another country. Commercial availability of the devices in the United States dates to about 1978, which is also when the Aqua Scooter® name originated. Today these PWCs are available through a variety of distribution channels around the world. Modern versions of the Aqua Scooter® are typically capable of moving at speeds of around five miles an hour (about eight kilometers an hour), and are aspirated through a snorkel that allows them to operate underwater.
The inventor of the Aqua Scooter® was a chemical engineer in East Germany when he determined that he wanted to defect to a Danish vessel that was commonly anchored 15 miles (about 24 kilometers) off the coast. When he found this was too far a distance to swim through the rough sea, he conceived of a small, submersible device that would be powered by a scooter motor. An initial escape attempt ended in failure, so he redesigned the unit to operate when fully submerged. The new design proved a success, and he was later contracted to create a commercially viable design of his escape device.
It is typically possible to operate an Aqua Scooter® slightly submerged or at the surface of the water. They are powered by two stroke gasoline engines, so they must have access to air in order to operate. To this end, they are equipped with snorkels that can allow them to run under the surface. The depth to which an operator can take one of these devices is typically limited by the length of the snorkel and the presence of a weight belt or ballast. If the snorkel becomes swamped at any time the engine may die, after which it will need to be cleared before it will start again.
The speed and range of an Aqua Scooter® can vary depending on local conditions. They typically carry enough fuel to operate for about three hours, and under ideal conditions have a range of about fifteen miles (24 kilometers). In practice, the actual range may be longer or shorter depending on tides and wave action. The devices are typically easy to operate, though it is usually advised that the user know how to swim and wear a life jacket.