Networked buoy connects diver’s mobile device while underwater

Technology enables fast, robust data link to a diver and utilizes common smartphone or tablet platforms


A team of scientists at the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Crane Division has invented a novel device that allows divers to have full access to their smartphones while underwater. The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would manufacture and sell the device.

Underwater work takes many forms including welding, archeology, pipeline maintenance, cable repair to name only a few.

Each of these has their land-based equivalent but one glaring difference is how workers communicate in these two environments. If a worker on land needs a tool they quickly fetch it themselves or call for it. Not so, underwater.

Current methods used by workers to communicate with those above in order to request tools and supplies, consult, or report status include the use of terrestrial devices and cables encased in shrink wrap.

The buoy is tested to remain above water no less than 95% of the time through a unique design. (Navy illustration)

Waterproofing cables by using heat shrink is not an effective means to prevent water intrusion long term. Additionally, heat shrink makes the cables unable to bend and flex, which is necessary for a dynamic environment such as the ocean. Cables used to try to enable devices to work underwater are used to dive once, but then the cable must be dried sometimes for days before being used again.

The Navy’s new system includes a surface buoy with a wireless connection to a terrestrial or ship-based network. The buoy supports an ethernet cable extending to the diver. At the end of the cable is a tablet in a waterproof case that allows full functionality of the screen via finger touch or stylus at any depth.

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