EASME/EMFF/2017/ – Sustainable Blue Economy

Co-funded by the EMFF programme of the European Union

Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Italy

DiveSafe 1st round of field-validation trials has been performed in the MPA “Capo Rizzuto” during the period from 12th to 16th of July 2021. The overall objective of this first validation mission was to validate the system integration and discover unforeseen problems related to the use of the DiveSafe integrated system in an operational environment. Furthermore, the usability of the system, and in particular the graphical user interface of the tablet Apps, was evaluated by end-users.

On the 1st day of the trials (Monday 12/07), some preliminary activities had been carried out to finalize the set-up of the DiveSafe system for the trials realization (i.e. DPV’s sensors integration, top unit installation onboard of the support boat, etc.). Moreover, an initial test in shallow waters had been performed near Le Castella seaport in order to check that all hardware and software components of the DiveSafe system work properly.

During the 2nd day (Tuesday 13/07) a demonstration test at the Punto Scifo shipwreck was planned but due to bad sea conditions, the demonstration was conducted to a nearby bay. In this trial, underwater archaeologists from the Italian Ministry of Culture, divers from the Carabinieri of Messina, along with a certified commercial diver from the regional agency for environmental protection (ARPACAL) participated. Prior to this diving session, a short training course was conducted focusing on the use of the Navigation App.

The 3rd day (Wednesday 14/07) included tests using only the Low-Cost DPV (LC_DPV). In particular, the test session was conducted in order to test and assess the performance of the messages’ exchanged from the LC_DPV and the surface at different depths and relative distances. Moreover, the High-End DPV (HE_DPV) was put in the water in order to improve its buoyancy by changing the position of the rear floats and removing the central ones, while the antenna’s position was placed in a better position in order not to affect the floating direction of the scooter.

The 4th day of the trials (Thursday 15/07) was dedicated to the testing of the health sensors. Both the breath rate and heart rate sensors worked properly, and their data was visualized in the Navigation App and in the Mission Manager App.

The final day of the trials (Friday 16/07) included a diving session at the Bengala shipwreck, with the use of both DPVs (LC_DPV and HE_DPV). The aim of this test session was to assess the hydrodynamic behavior of the two DPVs in deep water while performing underwater operations. In the afternoon of the final day, a local event was organized in Le Castella fortress. During this workshop, which was attended by the local community, regional institutions, and stakeholders, the DiveSafe system was described and demonstrated, while also the results of this first session in the open sea were presented.

The general impression of the DiveSafe system from the end-users during the 1st round of field trials was positive. They considered the project idea and the integrated system as useful and valid, helping the divers to perform underwater scientific research in an efficient and safe manner. The main positive comments were related to the effectiveness of the system in helping divers and preventing them from fatigue, as well as the innovation introduced by the system for underwater scientific research & exploration, guaranteeing at the same time the safety of the operators. However, required improvements were identified, mainly with respect to the setting-up time of the system and the mean time between failures, the diver’s position accuracy, and the navigation capability.

Fournoi island, Greece

From 11th to 15th of September 2021, validation fieldworks were conducted at Fournoi island in Greece. The goal of this 2nd open-sea mission was to demonstrate and validate the improved DiveSafe infrastructure by the end-users and gather and analyze safety and technical feedback.

On the 1st day (Saturday 11/09), the whole morning was dedicated to a training session where the system was presented to the divers, aiming at increasing their understanding and becoming familiar with the offered functionalities and the patterns of use. The training session was followed by a local awareness-raising event, where the DiveSafe project was presented to the local private and public sector stakeholders. During the event, the Project Coordinator (ATLANTIS – Polyvios Raxis) presented an overall description of the project consortium, the main challenges behind the project idea, the DiveSafe solution to be offered to the market, and the DiveSafe system architecture and its main components. In the afternoon, preliminary activities were conducted which included a dry test of all equipment (i.e. check of the Docking Station and health sensors in a dry environment, assembly of complete DPVs, etc.). 

During the 2nd day (Sunday 12/09), two trial sessions were scheduled (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). During these sessions both DPVs (i.e. the Low-Cost and the High-End) were tested in the water in order to check connections, positioning, messages exchange, data displayed on the tablet, and camera functioning.

The 3rd day (Monday 13/09) included testing activities at Kamari anchorage and Ghria Bay. The involved divers tested the buoyancy of the high-end and low-end DPVs, the health sensors functioning, and the accuracy of the positioning system.

The test of the 4th day (Tuesday 14/09) consisted of the simulation of shipwreck documentation, together with the monitoring of the diver’s health data. The aims of the testing activities were: a) photogrammetry of different wrecks; b) testing of the integration in the system wearable sensors and the display of the measured values on the diver’s tablet and top-side unit (i.e. laptop on the surface boat).

On the final day (Wednesday 15/09), trials at sea were not possible to be conducted due to bad weather and strong winds, so the technical team stayed at Kamari port performing the rest of the activities scheduled for the last day of the trials (i.e. filling in the end users’ questionnaires, equipment recovery).

Overall, the main conclusion from the Fournoi trials was that the system improvements (i.e. applied as a response to identified shortcomings in 1st trial) worked smoothly; and the system offers a credible and safe approach to help divers in archaeological missions, where it can be useful during surveying in order to record the path taken and the coordinates of a point of interest along with some preliminary pictures. Further improvements should be applied, such as easiness of wearing the “health” package, the system’s size, and the accuracy of the photographs needed in the archaeological detailed documentation.

MPA of Porto Cesareo, Italy

Due to the difficulties encountered from the COVID-19 pandemic, the 3rd field trial originally scheduled to take place in Israel was replaced by trials at the MPA of Porto Cesareo, in southern Italy. The trials were conducted from the 7th to the 12th of November 2021. The main goals of this trial had been to examine the possible capabilities of the system at various sites by scientific divers, archaeologists, and biologists who intend to use it during their research works, to learn the capabilities, develop, and adapt working methodologies with the system for research and monitoring MPA sites.

On the 1st day of trials (Sunday 7/11), some preliminary activities were carried out, in order to finalize the set-up of the DiveSafe system: preliminary check of all equipment including dry-tests and assembly of the DPVs, installation of the updated Navigation App, etc. Moreover, in the afternoon the high-end DPV was tested in order to briefly verify and check the system’s functionalities.

On the 2nd day (Monday 8/11), the full morning was dedicated to the training of the divers. This training activity proved to be very important in allowing divers to understand the system and start becoming familiar with it before actually using it underwater. After the first part of the general presentation of the project and the various parts that make up the system, the workshop continued with the specific training part. In the afternoon, the 1st trial session was conducted. The aim of this session was to increase even further the divers’ familiarization with the system, without specific tasks, traying only the various features of the Apps (e.g. photos, videos, chat between divers, localization, verification of the path visualization, etc.). 

The 3rd day’s (Tuesday 9/11) morning session had to do again with the familiarization of the new divers with the system. In the afternoon, the testing scenarios included the identification of 2 Points of Interest (PoIs) in the Navigation App by the divers and then try to make photogrammetry between those points.

The 4th day (Wednesday 10/11) was dedicated to system validation activities. The main aim of these activities was to do photogrammetry with both DPVs (i.e. Low Cost and High-End), by using the Navigation App to take videos and photos. 

During the 5th day (Thursday 11/11), the divers conducted photogrammetry, by taking photos (with the low-cost DPV) and sequential pictures (with the high-end DPV). Moreover, they sent messages via the chat function, not only with the predefined options but also through custom messages. Moreover, one of the divers was equipped with health sensors in order to check their proper operation.

On the final day of the trials (Friday 12/11), a final general test of the system was conducted, in order to verify again the various features of the Apps, including chat message and path visualization, as well as paying particular attention to repeating the photogrammetry, by taking videos and sequential pictures. Additionally, one diver was equipped with health sensors, in order to test their functioning following the software modification of the previous day.

After the completion of the 3rd trial, the overall impression was that the final DiveSafe system offers something new in carrying out underwater missions and can become an important tool to facilitate the performance of underwater activities for archaeological and biological purposes, saving a lot of time, and increasing the safety of the diver.