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'Electronic Dive Buddy' Set To Make Scuba Diving A Much Safer Sport; Automatically Adjusts Buoyancy

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AUKLAND, New Zealand -- An Electronic Dive Buddy built by University of Auckland engineering students could make scuba diving a much safer sport.

Anatoly Kudryashov and Jenny Xu from the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Mechatronics Engineering specialisation have designed a computerised system to automatically adjust a diver’s buoyancy if they get into trouble. The project was supervised by Associate Professor Vojislav Kecman and assisted by Technical Officer Rob Earl.

"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 says.

"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 says.

The Electronic Dive Buddy 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. Mechatronics Engineering students work in pairs to complete a major research project in their final year of study.

The Electronic Dive Buddy prototype was tested in the laboratory 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 says.

Anatoly and Jenny presented their findings at The Department of Mechanical Engineering project display day on Friday, 10 October 2008. The students received an IPENZ Award for the quality of their presentation and display.

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