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Navy Engineers Develop a Futuristic Display for Diving Helmets

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Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) lead engineer/senior electrical engineer William Hughes III demonstrates the Divers Augmented Vision Display (DVAD) during a lab simulation. (U.S. Navy Photo by Richard Manley)
William Hughes III, lead engineer and senior electrical engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD), demonstrates the Divers Augmented Vision Display (DVAD) during a lab simulation. (U.S. Navy Photo by Richard Manley)

It appears that the United States Navy has taken a page out of the Iron Man movie script. The Divers Augmented Vision Display (DAVD) makes graphics appear as if they were projected onto the glass visor in a diving helmet. DAVD allows divers to receive real-time information, relevant to the mission, including sector sonar (providing a top-down view of the diver’s location and dive site); text messages; diagrams; images; and even videos. This information will allow Navy divers to work in safer environments, more quickly and effectively.

“The DAVD HUD system can be used for various diving missions, including ship [repairs], underwater construction, and salvage operations. The same system can eventually be used by first responders and the commercial diving community,” said a Navy spokesperson. On missions where time is critical, the technology will provide divers with the ability to operate on the fly instead of being bogged down by pre-dive briefings.

Lab simulation view of an augmented reality image of an airplane through the Divers Augmented Vision Display. (U.S. Navy Photo by Richard Manley)
Lab simulation view of an augmented reality image of an airplane through the Divers Augmented Vision Display. (U.S. Navy Photo by Richard Manley)

All Iron Man comparisons aside, DAVD is still in prototype mode, so it hasn’t been implemented yet. However, the Navy does plan on beginning expanded field tests in 2017. Before then, the team responsible for this innovation—the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division—is looking to enhance the diving experience via mini high-resolution sonar and enhanced underwater video systems. Design quirks like these, for example, will help Navy divers see better in waters with near-zero visibility. Watch a demo of the DAVD below.