The Navy Is Sick

When Wired Magazine titles an article The Navy Is Sick of the One-Person Subs It Uses for Deep-Sea Diving, by Navy they mean the poor Sailor who has to schqueeeze into that thing. He does not look like a happy camper:

Navy Diver 2nd Class Shane Olson
Navy Diver PO2 Shane Olson

To prevent death from happening at these extreme depths, bulky atmospheric suits maintain a steady internal pressure of one standard atmosphere, or one atm — the same as the mean pressure at sea level. That also means deep-sea divers don’t have to depressurize when surfacing. But the Navy notes: “This size and cumbersome configuration severely constrains its use.”

Some experimental suits have some of the functionality the Navy wants. Canadian firm Nuytco Research recently developed an atmospheric diving suit called the Exosuit ADS, which can descend to 1,000 feet — its crush depth is double that — and weighs between 500 to 600 pounds, just over the Navy’s requirement. Divers can wear flipper boots in addition to the suit’s thrusters. And the Nuytco model uses a foam coating of teeny, tiny microbubbles to keep divers’ limbs buoyant. The suit also has artificial hands controlled by handles contained inside.

Nor is the Navy is the only part of the military giving divers a boost. The Pentagon’s blue-sky research agency Darpa wants to develop a sensor system that can detect signs of decompression sickness in divers, and adjust for it by squirting small amounts of nitric oxide into divers’ lungs when there’s danger. But those divers won’t be operating at extreme depths. For that, you’ll still need a clunky suit — though a lighter one. With flipper boots.

 There goes Big Navy, changing uniforms on us again.