Trust me, I know what you’re thinking having just read the headline but believe me, your boss won’t be able to send you “data calls” and your partner won’t be sending you any grocery lists while you’re using this piece of equipment underwater.
While attending the 2008 Diving Equipment and Marketing Association’s (DEMA) show in Las Vegas, I spoke with representatives of the Underwater Technologies Center (www.utc-digital.com ) about their Underwater Digital Interface (UDI). This device was touted as being able to send text messages through the water to other divers or to a surface vessel. The distance that it could send messages was reported to be up to 500 meters. Being involved in technical diving, my first thought was that it would be ideal for communication between tech divers and the surface support vessel but as you might imagine there are many other uses for a device such as this.
The system is comprised of a boat unit and one or more wrist-mounted diver units. Some salient features are that the system:
- allows for two way communication via thirteen pre-configured text messages;
- provides both a diver SOS and a boat SOS that can be sent in the event of an emergency;
- has the capacity to be able to locate a “lost” diver via a homing beacon;
- incorporates a gyro-compensated digital compass for use underwater;
- includes a fully functional RGBM NITROX diving computer;
- can be configured using a PC interface;
- can be configured to allow up to 14 different divers on 4 different networks to communicate with the surface or with each other;
- increases the safety and decreases response time to deal with in-water emergencies;
I contacted HTI Special Operations Equipment (www.htiops.com), the US distributor for UTC and asked to evaluate the system for use in technical diving operations. The distributor agreed and I was provided with a boat unit and three diver units for a period of three months.
NOAA technical divers used the system on a technical diving mission in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Additional tests were conducted on the units during dive operations at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary in Savannah, Georgia.
|The UTC UDI boat unit which communicates to divers wearing the transceivers through a transducer suspended from the side of the support vessel|