We’ve all wanted to see more on a particularly spectacular dive. With a diver propulsion vehicle (DPV), you can cover far more territory. But what exactly is a DPV, and what sort of training do you need to successfully use one?
What is a diver propulsion vehicle?
DPVs come in many different models, sizes and capacities. Their main objective is to propel you through the water while you hold onto the machine. DPVs allow you to cover far more distance than just through kicking so you can explore large areas while conserving your air. Obviously, you must still pay close attention to your air consumption and no-decompression limits. A DPV usually consists of a pressure-resistant watertight casing containing a battery-powered electric motor that drives a propeller. The propeller must not harm the diver, diving equipment or marine life.
The PADI DPV specialty
You’ll make two dives and learn:
- How to maintain your DPV
- How to plan dives, including procedures for staying with your buddy
- DPV-handling skills, such as making proper descents and ascents
- Potential problems and ways to deal with them
DPV operation requires more situational awareness than simply swimming. Operating a DPV requires simultaneous depth control, buoyancy adjustment, air monitoring, and navigation. Buoyancy control is vital for diver safety. Depth changes can occur rapidly when using a DPV, so be cautious when descending and ascending. Generally, you should not use a DPV for these maneuvers.
Be careful around your buddy and other divers using DPVs. Although speeds aren’t great, a diver and vehicle have a lot of mass and impacts can cause injury.
Be courteous to other divers. They might not particularly like a DPV’s sound and vibration, especially when it scares away the critters they like to watch or photograph. If others in your group are not using a DPV, try to stay away from them and go a separate direction.
Always stay with your buddy. It can be exciting to fly around a dive site, but don’t leave your buddy behind. Keep a close eye on each other and know that sometimes one DPV can be slower than another. If you’re using a faster DPV, you may have to wait for your buddy to catch up. If your DPV fails during the dive, you can tandem dive with your buddy back to the boat.
You must be considerate of the aquatic realm when using a diver propulsion vehicle. Lots of small marine life is very well camouflaged and tries to stay hidden. When you’re moving fast on a DPV you can frighten some fish and other marine life if you get too close.
When riding your DPV, be cautious around aquatic organisms and shipwrecks, just as you would without a DPV. Keep plenty of space between you and the reef or the shipwreck you’re exploring.
Avoid touching and disturbing the bottom. Silt decreases visibility and harms aquatic life, particularly corals. It can also clog and damage the propeller.
Pay attention to your fin tips so you don’t accidentally drag or kick anything. You and your buddy should always pay close attention to environmentally-friendly techniques and avoid disturbing or damaging aquatic life.
When I’m using a DPV and I see something cool, I stop the unit and signal my buddy to do the same so we can watch the marine life without scaring it.
Enjoy the ride
With simple dive etiquette and marine-life awareness, DPV diving can be a unique and fun experience. It allows you to really explore the topography of an area and makes for a great dive when exploring walls, reefs and wrecks. Many dive companies allow you to rent DPVs, but we highly recommend signing up for a training course first to learn proper use and safe techniques.