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July 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Do We Divers Need Propulsion?

from the July, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Do we sport divers think kicking our legs is not enough, that we need to be powered underwater?

Entrepreneurs from the UK think so and claim they've created an underwater jetpack that could allow swimmers to progress underwater without any effort. The three-person team of innovators from Portsmouth, England, has released a short video clip showing a swimmer jetting around the bottom of a pool using jetpacks strapped to his wrists. An analog trigger varies the speed.

Each jetpack, which has a maximum speed of 6 mph, will be powered by a battery pack worn like a backpack. It is still at prototype stage. (www.supermarinovation.com)

We've seen propulsion for scuba divers before. We're not talking about those cumbersome diver propulsion vehicles favored by cave divers for long penetrations. They often have big lithium-ion batteries prohibited from air transport.

And years ago, there were the Californian-made MST Jetboots, compact carbon-fiber-built propulsion units that attached to a diver's lower legs. A compact nicad battery in a canister attached to the diver's tank powered them. It was light enough to take aboard an aircraft as carry-on. It appears they are now only available for military application. (www.jetboots.com)

Then there is the Pegasus Thruster, a device originally developed in Florida for disabled divers but currently adopted by the TSA for routine underwater hull inspections of vessels entering Miami harbors. (They find that a single diver so equipped can do the job done by several previously.) The Thruster is a single unit with a propeller that attaches to the tank and is controlled by an umbilical, allowing for hands-free operation.(www.pegasusthruster.com)

In every case, the manufacturers have been optimistic that scuba divers will see the attraction of these devices and sales will be commensurate, but we have yet to see any of them proliferating at dive sites, either in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world.

Would you pay four thousand bucks or more to save yourself the effort of finning?

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