There have been a number of developments in recent years which have been aimed at providing divers with visual displays. These developments have been based around the addition of bulky add-on items to existing diver helmets and have proved to be ergonomically unacceptable to divers.
British Gas identified potential benefits to be gained from providing divers with visual data in a wide range of offshore operations. It was therefore decided to explore the feasibility of designing a suitable diver helmet display system for offshore use.
A prototype helmet system incorporating a specially modified helmet, miniature camera, light and display monitor was designed, manufactured and tested, involving tank, dock and offshore trials during 1993. The system allows the diver to view a magnified image from a miniature black and white monitor which can be used to display images from his own helmet camera, other diver or ROV cameras or images sent to him from the surface in the form of written instructions, engineering drawings or computer graphic displays.
Trials undertaken with the prototype and production versions of helmet have proved the capabilities of the Cyclops system in a number of offshore diving operations.
At present, there is no visual communication link to the diver. The image from the diver's helmet mounted camera is only displayed to the topside supervisor. All instructions therefore rely on the supervisor's skill in directing the diver through an audible communications link. Under certain seawater conditions, where poor visibility exists, it is known that topside personnel have a better image of the diver's immediate environment than the diver because of the enhanced performance of subsea cameras. These camera pictures should be made available to the diver. Another benefit would be gained if divers had a direct access to written instructions from the surface, visual prompts or drawings, computer graphics, ROV pictures and navigational information, see Figure 1.
There have been a number of developments in recent years which have been aimed at probiding divers with helmet mounted display systems. These developments have in general been based around bulky add-on hardware to existing helmets and as such these developments have not been accepted by the diver on ergonomic grounds.
Two well respected companies in the offshore industry were recruited by British Gas for their specialist knowledge to support the design team. These were Divex for the design of the helmet shell and Simrad Osprey who designed and built the camera and display system.
Following a literature review, it was establish that there have been a number of developments in recent years which have been aimed at providing divers with helmet mounted displays. These developments had been based around bulky hardware added onto existing helmets and were not widely accepted by the divers on ergonomic grounds. It was therefore considered necessary to approach the required design primarily from ergonomic considerations.
Helmet weight is important during periods when a diver is being dressed on deck in preparation for a dive and during this period helmet weight should be minimised.