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Radio system transmitters and receivers
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, low-frequency radio waves actually penetrate fresh water rather well. Our hobby operates in the low MHz range (75MHz for North America and 40MHz for much of Europe, for instance). The new GHz radio systems available on the market are, unfortunately, not suitable for our applications and the high frequencies they use will not penetrate water beyond a few inches (at best). They can still be used in submarines (and are frequently), but you need to ensure that you extend the receiver antenna and keep it above water at all times.
A Note about salt water: Impurities in water such as minerals and chemicals will affect the ability of radio waves to penetrate water, depending on the concentration of the impurities. In perfectly fresh water, for instance, you could expect to maintain radio communication with your boat in excess of 20ft (or 6m for us metric-minded folks). A chlorinated swimming pool, however, can reduce that range significantly to something more like 6ft (2m). Heavily salty water such as ocean water is even worse, and range drops to a matter of inches. So, in summary, wireless control of an R/C submarine in salt water is not possible without additional hardware, such as a buoy.
Download the instruction manual for the VEX radio here.