During each DEMA Show, one is bound to see in addition to the latest models of BCDs, regulators, fins, etc. some cool looking gadget or gizmo that sets us salivating on the spot. And then there will that one item that stops you in your tracts and scratching your head thinking Whisky Tango Foxtrot is that? 

One such item was a really a weird alien-looking diving helmet called the Hydroid Aquabreather.

Hydroid AquabreatherWhat this new diving apparatus is promising to be is a Hi-Tech fully closed-circuit rebreather incorporated into the (albeit rather large) helmet (weighing 9.9 lbs./4.5 kgs) that the manufacturer claims is capable of providing a diver a 60-minute runtime to a maximum depth of 147 feet (42 metres).

For functionality, each Hydroid Aquabreather is equipped with two reactors designed to accommodate user replaceable pop-in regenerative cartridges. The cartridges are cylindrical in shape about the size of a can of soda made of fluoroplastic (PTFE) which house the chemicals used for generating life supporting oxygen while at the same time removing the harmful CO2.

Being a closed-circuit rebreather, monitoring the composition of your respiratory mix – partial pressure of oxygen O₂ is displayed on heads up monitor in the Aquabreather’s visor. According to Aquabreather’s website electronics present do not actually control system, but rather only function as an information center. Should the unit’s parameters reach critical state, the analyzer activates both audio and visual signals.

Pushing the “cool” aspect aside, see everything housed together around your head naturally begs the question, what possibly could go wrong?

For one, each chemical on their own can be highly volatile in nature when a mishap or mechanical failure takes place. For example, the sorb used for the task of removing CO2 can turn into a caustic mixed by way of direct water intrusion, whereas something like a chemically activated oxygen generator poses a possible risk of fire. Then of course is all normal risks associated with diving rebreathers like hypoxia, hyperoxia and hypercapnia.

So, does it work, or is it all vaporware?

Watching the Aqaubreather being demoed in the pool set up at the DEMA Show’s, the diver was able to stay down for a while, abet, he didn’t do much moving around.

Plus, I couldn’t help but notice that almost the entire time he was submerged, he remained a semi prone position on his back looking at the surface.

For a little more entertainment, watch James Blackman of Divers Ready give a walk-through of the Hydroid Aquabreather.

As for what one these units will cost is to be determined, which also goes for who or what agency will provide training and certification.

In the event it doesn’t work out as a viable diving apparatus, there is always Halloween.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Hydroid Aquabreather
Walt Stearns
Scuba Diver Destinations Editor-at-Large, Walt Stearns, has been involved in the diving industry for more than 30 years. As one of the most prolific photojournalists in diving media Walt’s articles and images have appeared in a wide range of national and international diving, water sports and travel titles.

1 COMMENT

  1. The following assumes it ever makes it out of vapourware (which I doubt) And if it does, it will kill people who aren’t trained to know just how sketchy this is. I was at DEMA for this and could no resist the chance to pretend to be an average punter and let him walk me through it. More on that later.

    The first and glaringly obvious one is … it has no way for you to equalise your ears ! The hard helmet does not allow you to reach your nose as with a scuba mask. Realistically thats the only point you need to know. Everything else about what is dangerous about it, at depth, is irrelevant because you can’t possibly get there anyway. Its like the guys who dreamed this up have NEVER themselves done even a basic Open Water course … or even been snorkelling

    (For non divers) as you descend in the water, the weight of the water presses in on the outside of your eardrums and you MUST equalise the pressure by pinching your nose and exhaling gently to force air up the eustachian tubes and equalise the pressure. Some rare individuals can achieve this just by wriggling their jaw and some other tricks, but it is 0.00001 % Anyone who has duck dived to even the bottom of the deep end of their local swimming pool has felt that pressure. In the ocean if you keep going you will simply rupture your eardrums. Very nasty. Individual tolerance varies but most people feel the pressure within 2m. It becomes uncomfortable at around 4m, is painful at about 6m and beyond that you’re just an idiot. Even if you put up with excruciating pain you wouldn’t get past 8m. Notice this pool is what ? 1.5m deep ?

    As other have observed the chemical reactive containers underwater are a virtual suicide machine. I’ll bet Dr Jack Kevorkian is jealous of this design.

    If the seal of the full face mask gives way at any stage and the mask floods, don’t worry you just … on wait, there IS no solution, you just drown. Scuba divers regularly clear their mask by taking a breath into their lungs and exhaling through their nose to drive water out. This does not work that way.

    The spruiker says in the above video at 5:58 “the computer displays all the useful information like PO2 etc” That is not ‘useful’ information, that is CRITICAL! information. Later on he also says “The computer will tell you if something goes wrong” (Like you are say Hypoxic (low oxygen in your loop. Nice, but now what do I DO about it? Nothing we are just giving a heads up that you are about to die 😉 According to them an LED light inside the unit glows blue for OK, What was it ? Yellow for abnormal and violet (?) for when you need to deco. So basically its a rebreather as imagined by Fischer Price.

    Oh and this one is a gemvthat so far no one seems to have grocked. At 4:10 he says “inside the helmet there is a tank of 0.3l pressured to 310Bar” WTF ! 310Bar of pressure is 150% that of a fully filled regular scuba tank. From my visit to the stand I can tell you folks, that little tank (about the size of a baby’s bottle) sits top dead centre of the helmet, just under the cover between the two reactive cans. How do you feel about a small ‘bomb’ with a pressure of 300Bar sitting 6mm from the top of your head ? Ahhh that’s a hard pass from me thanks 😉

    At 6:27 he covers how the computer tells you if the unit has gone hyperoxic (the partial pressure of oxygen is too high and you risk oxygen toxicity and convulsing)
    He describes how you press a button on the helmet which adds diluent (air) from the 0,3l tank. And at 6:50 he talks about manual release of ‘air from the apparatus to achieve neutral buoyancy” This cannot be from the tank air and must be the counter lungs but who knows what this actually means … BUT here’s the whammy…. that ‘tank’ of 0.3l at 300BAR means it holds the equivalent of 9l of air if at the surface. (o.3l x 300Bar) If you are at say 30m you are under 4 ATA of pressure (3 AT or water plus the 1At of atmosphere) so your 9l of air is the equivalent of ¼ of 9l. So the dil (diluent) available to you is an ‘effective’ 2.25l Good luck getting home on that. A regular diver breathes air at ~15l/min. A panicked diver double that. So you need 30l of air per minute and your tank is 2.25l. Not pretty maths. Oh and you are negatively buoyant so must swim ‘uphill’ to get back to the surface.

    For shits and giggles let’s say they redesign the unit so you can equalise your ears, any talk of it being able to go to depth is still complete nonsense. In most parts of the world, you cannot dive without a wetsuit, even a thin one has inherent buoyancy. To compensate for the buoyancy, divers wear some amount of weight so we can get off the surface. As we dive deeper and the wetsuit compresses, we add gas from our scuba tank into the BC to maintain buoyancy. With this unit there IS no BC so you have no control over your relative buoyancy in the water. You put on a 3mm wetsuit and 2kg of lead weight. You go to 30m, your wetsuit has compressed and now absent a BC you are NEGATIVELY buoyant and will struggle to swim up. Ahh but don’t worry, just inflate your BC … woops, nope. We don’t have one. Or a tank that has a way to fill one even if we wore one.

    This is total vapourware. It is this years “Triton” Some below nailed it in their comments, it’s basically an investment scam. They know they will never release any working version if this, but they may be able to separate a few million dollars from some rich suckers, who are clueless about the tech and want to believe it will be real one day.

    Finally, it is one of the tenets of scuba … that you never dive alone. Buddy is your ‘external’ brain, air supply, regulators, tank etc. In the worst case example, you do what practice all the time (you do practice don’t you ?) In a catastrophic loss of my gas, mask , fins, … everything. Buddy gives me his spare reg and we both ascend in controlled fashion to the surface. We complete any deco obligation /safety stop and get out to learn from what went wrong and live to dive another day. We are two guys on these units at 30m. Yours is flooding … WTF can I do? (Apart from surface and commence the offical body recovery)

    I’ll leave you with this story; At DEMA, after the run through on the stand I asked the guy (different one from the video above) “So what is the bailout procedure if the unit goes tits up at 40m ? I mean I can do a free ascent from there, Salt water an computers don’t play nicely together either, what happens if the unit goes black at 40m? ” He looked at me blankly for about 5 seconds an stammered “yeah well this is just a prototype, we are still working out a lot of the details” No shit Sherlock.

    Should this thing ever make it to retail sales, for $4k they at least should throw in a long handled shovel with each purchase. That way your family can get started digging right away …

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