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New device a lifesaver for divers

DiveTrack in use exploring a wreck
Date 8 Nov 2007

DiveTrack in use exploring a wreck

Technology traditionally used to communicate with underwater vehicles is now destined to help divers in distress. Newcastle University, working with Cumbria-based Tritech International, has created the 'DiveTrack' safety system.

The device enables divers to send a distress signal to the surface if they get into difficulty, allowing a boat crew to rapidly locate the diver and attempt a rescue.

The technology was originally developed for communicating with 'subsea' vehicles or instruments which explore and drill oil and gas fields below the ocean floor. It works by sending ultrasonic sound waves between the divers and a surface unit up to 800m away.

The DiveTrack technology is deliberately low cost and uses very little power. It is about the size of a small torch and can be strapped onto a diver's arm. The batteries last for about two months, allowing emergency services to continue to locate divers some time after they go missing.

Jeff Neasham, senior research associate from the University's School of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, who led the development team, said: "It's very easy for rescue divers to miss somebody in the water, especially in poor Visibility. By accurately locating a diver in distress, this low cost device could be lifesaving."

Future improvements to the product include an underwater interface to enable simple text messaging. The device could also be connected to the diver's breathing apparatus to alert the surface crew if any technical problems occur.

Mr Neasham said: "This is undoubtedly the most exciting use of the technology yet, due to the difference it could make to so many people."

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