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May 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Pegasus’s New, Cheaper DPV

readers debate: the leisure model is $800 less and just as good

from the May, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

You may remember reading my enthusiastic report of the Pegasus Thruster back-mounted DPV (Diver Propulsion Vehicle) in the July 2010 article "Look Ma, No Hands Underwater." At $2,350 the price was high, but a leisure model is now out for $1,550, so I decided to try it in the ripping currents of Dampier Strait in eastern Indonesia.

It weighed 26 pounds at airport check-in. It was a pity that Emirates Airlines lost the bag between London and Jakarta; I had to wait six days before it arrived at Kri Island. I only got to use it for one day at the place where I was really going to need it, though I went on to use it as well during a liveaboard trip in the southern area of Raja Ampat, where the currents are less demanding.

The Leisure Unit

Most of my review in the July issue still applies. The Thruster fits onto the diver's tank by means of a specially designed mount, and is held tight by a conventional camband. With a fitted battery section, it looks a little bit like a small missile with a propeller set within a cowling at the rear end. A control cable is fitted via a wet connector at its front end, and has a large on/off switch button positioned at the business end of the control cable. Press to go. Release to stop.

The Leisure Version of the Pegasus Thruster

The Leisure Version of the Pegasus Thruster

The main difference between the leisure version and the commercial version, besides its anodizing blue color, is that it comes with only one battery pack instead of two, and a rather slower charging unit. With a total run time of 45 minutes and a full charging time of six hours, I thought I was going to need to be selective about which dives each day I was going to use it on.

Considerations in Use

Although the assembled Thruster snaps instantly into place on its mount, helpful dive boat crews displayed an element of difficulty doing this. I ended up fitting it to the tank myself and wearing it for the short inflatable dinghy rides. I was wary of fingers getting caught in whirling propeller blades, so I initially chose not to fit the wet connector of the remote control until I was ready to dive. This was a mistake in that less-than-careful insertion in its female part while in a rocking boat by a less-than-observant boat driver bent the male part wet connector. I had to straighten it later. So I resorted to assembling the whole thing and wearing it before diving, being careful to be aware of its extra dimension added to my tank and the fact that it made an overhang.

When I surfaced, I disconnected the remote control myself and dismounted the Thruster from the tank mount before passing it up into the dinghy, followed by my tank and other diving equipment. Because the mount stayed all week on my tank, along with my BC, it suffered from not being rinsed in fresh water after every dive like the main part. I soon noted a little electrolysis starting between the stainless-steel fittings and the aluminium body of the mount, and eventually cured the problem with a squirt of WD40.

In the Water

My first experience with the Thruster Leisure version was in the ripping currents of Cape Kri. While others hooked in to watch the show, I was able to buzz over to where I wanted to be. It also gave me the confidence to swim down to a mountain of sweetlips on the sand at 130 feet, knowing that I would easily be able to get back to the reef despite the current. I steered by simply pointing my body in the direction I wanted to go.

The Thruster is around four pounds negatively buoyant in the water. Because I was using it with an aluminium tank and very little extra lead (only four pounds), and wearing the latest in neutral buoyancy diving suits, the weight of the Thruster was a little top-heavy on the tank, which took getting used to. Unlike many DPVs, it goes almost silently. In fact, if testing it out of the water before diving but wearing it, you need to get someone else to tell you if the propeller is spinning.

Because all the weight of my diving gear was in the Thruster, it tended to lift the tank a little, and I felt the push applied at my shoulders. A crotch strap would have solved this initial problem. It doesn't happen when used with a steel tank, or with a heavier suit and more lead on the weight belt.

The 45-minute run time was plenty. In fact, using it only when I needed to challenge the prevailing current meant using it about five minutes per dive, and the 45 minutes was good enough for a day's diving.

Later on the trip, once we had left Kri Island and joined our liveaboard, Mandarin Siren, I lent the unit to Deidre, the Irish dive guide and boat manager. She happily buzzed about during the whole dive around Boo Rocks in southern Raja Ampat, acting like a sheepdog and obviously enjoying the experience. When I say "buzzed," I really mean that the unit is virtually silent apart from the distant hum of an electric motor, the sort that might power a big electric drill at low speed.

The great thing about the Thruster is that it is unobtrusive during the dive until you need it, and it leaves your hands free to use a camera. I threaded the business end of the remote control through the waistband of my BC so that it readily fell to hand. While propelling forward under power, I became very aware of the poor aquadynamics of my big camera rig, which became quite heavy in the hands after a time.

So if the Thruster is your ultimate dive toy, keep in mind our article about excessive baggage charges (see below. Carrying this halfway around the world and back may cost you a good percentage of what you paid for the entire unit. www.pegasusthruster.com

John Bantin is the technical editor of DIVER magazine in the United Kingdom. FOr 20 years, he has used and received virtually every piece of dive equipment available in the U.K. and the U.S., and makes around 300 dives per year for that purpose.

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