In 1976, in association with OSEL of Great Yarmouth, UK, Hawkes designed the one-atmosphere deep diving suit Wasp. Two years later, he designed the one-man microsubmersible Mantis, which included remote manipulator arms. A Mantis sub was used in the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only", which he himself piloted in a large tank at the Pinewood Studios, UK.
Hawkes founded the San Leandro based firm, Deep Ocean Engineering (DOE), in 1981 with Sylvia Earle, his wife from 1986 to 1992. DOE has produced over 300 ROVs.
By 1982, he had completed the Challenger submersible, capable of diving 5,000 feet (1,500 m).
In 1981, he designed the first of the Deep Rover-series of 1- and 2-man submersibles. A Deep Rover submarine was used in the 3-D IMAX film "Aliens of the Deep". In the same year, Hawkes founded Deep Ocean Technology (DOT) with Earle.
In 1985, the Deep Ocean Engineering team designed and built the Deep Rover research submarine, which operates down to 1,000 metres (3,300 ft).
An insight into his personality was provided by a scene that occurred during the sea trials of the first Deep Rover vehicle. Operating near San Nicholas Island, CA, from a converted mudboat the R/V EGABRAG, the sub had been launched after dark with Hawkes as pilot. He had dutifully reported the descent depth every 100 meters, down to 1000 meters on the Underwater telephone (UQC). Amongst the people on the bridge of the R/V EGABRAG, where the UQC was installed were the Captain and helmsman, his then wife Sylvia Earle, a reporter, cameraman and sound man from a San Francisco TV station, the Operations Manager from CANDIVE and the Diving Safety Officer from the University of Rhode Island, Phillip Sharkey. Hawkes reported, "1000 meters." There was a quiet ripple of applause on the bridge, and the reporter took the UQC microphone. He pressed the "push to talk" button and asked Hawkes, "What does it mean to you to be there, at 3000 feet?" The reporter was clearly expecting the flowery prose that Sylvia Earle was so justly famous for, but all he got from Hawkes was a clipped British, "It means my calculations were correct."
This exploit, in 1985, set the world solo dive depth record in a submarine. (3000 ft/1000m off San Clemente Island on Deep Rover), which was soon repeated by Sylvia Earle, and another team member.
In 1991, he made headlines when it was briefly thought that he and his team might have found the remains of 'Flight 19', missing in the Bermuda Triangle since 1945.
Hawkes left the day-to-day operations of Deep Ocean Engineering to found Hawkes Ocean Technologies (HOT), with his third wife, Karen, in 1996. Hawkes became the San Francisco headquartered company's marketing manager. HOT launched the Necker Nymph and DeepFlight Super Falcon which Hawkes designed.
Hawkes completed the design for the Deep Flight II two-person submarine in 1998.
In 2000, he completed the DeepFlight Aviator, the first positively buoyant submersible that relies on hydrodynamic forces on its wings for diving. It was also the first research submersible to attain a speed of 10 mph underwater. The first example of the type is called Spirit of Patrick.
In 2008, Hawkes finished the first example of his design DeepFlight Super Falcon, which he subsequently delivered to venture capitalist Tom Perkins.
In 2010, the first example of his DeepFlight Merlin design was completed and delivered to Richard Branson. It was named the Necker Nymph and is a wet submarine that is positively buoyant and utilizes hydrodynamic forces to dive. It is also capable of hydrobatic maneuvers.Cambridge University Press, "Handbook of Phycological Methods", Mark M. Littler, Diane S. Littler, ed.s, 1985, ISBN 0-521-20049-0
For Your Eyes Only (1981) - Mantis Man