The US Navy's Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) has successfully completed the testing of its new HeliCom Matrix communications system, which was developed to compensate for helium-influenced speech during saturation dives.
Training and testing on the equipment was carried out over an 11-day period by six sailors from the US Navy’s NEDU at Naval Support Activity Panama City (NSAPC) in Panama City Beach, Bay County, Florida.
NEDU sailors conducted a simulated dive in the Ocean Simulation Facility (OSF), where they were compressed to a depth of 500ft.
NEDU commanding officer Jay Young said: “The importance of this dive was twofold.
“First was to test new equipment that we will use in future [saturation] dives and validate its operation, and second was to use this scenario as a training opportunity to maintain our proficiency for our watch teams and our divers to continue our saturation mission here at NEDU.
“This ensures we are prepared in the event we are called upon to support saturation diving operations in the fleet.”
NEDU is currently the only US Navy command equipped to conduct saturation diving, and its sailors use the OSF to conduct tests, as well as evaluate equipment and procedures for worldwide diving use.
Chief navy diver Teague Mangiaracina said: “We plan these dives a year in advance, possibly even more. We knew we were installing this equipment and needed to plan the dive around the testing.”
The six participants were breathing a pre-made mixture of 94% helium and 6% oxygen at a depth of 500ft for 11 days, as normal air gains toxicity at high pressures.
HeliCom Matrix functions by de-scrambling the sound of the diver's voice, which is altered as the sailor breathes in the helium in the mixed gases used for saturation diving.
Image: NEDU command diver carries wrenches through the Ocean Simulation Facility. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Fred Gray IV / Released.