New gear will help save divers

October 20th, 2008 - 10:27 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 20 (IANS) An electronic dive buddy built by University of Auckland engineering students could help save divers and make scuba diving a much safer sport. Anatoly Kudryashov and Jenny Xu from the department of mechanical engineering designed a computerised system to automatically adjust a diver’s buoyancy if they get into trouble. They were supervised by associate professor Vojislav Kecman.

“The most important task for a diver while underwater is buoyancy control. Normally this is controlled manually by adding or releasing air in a buoyancy control device, which is worn like a jacket,” Anatoly said.

“To rise in the water, a diver adds air to the buoyancy control device. To sink, air is let out. If the buoyancy is not adjusted correctly, a diver may rise too rapidly or descend too quickly to an unsafe depth, risking serious injury or sometimes death,” Jenny said.

The electronic dive buddy (EDB) attaches to the buoyancy jacket and monitors the diver’s motion while underwater. It automatically adjusts buoyancy if an unsafe depth or velocity is reached. The device also has a ‘cruise control’ feature, allowing divers to automatically maintain a desired depth in the water.

Anatoly, who is in avid diver, couldn’t understand why computer control hadn’t been introduced to scuba diving and decided to tackle the problem as part of his assessment for a Bachelor of Engineering Degree, according to an University of Auckland release.

The EDB prototype was tested in the lab and in a 4.7 metre deep swimming pool.

“Our tests so far have proven the device to work, so the next step is to look at its marketability. As far as I know, a device like this does not exist,” Anatoly said.

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