Although we’ve all grown accustomed to the (usually) accurate directions provided by our GPS-based smartphones, underwater, we must rely on compass navigation. The researchers behind Project Ariadna have spent more than six years trying to change that, creating the first personal, underwater, GPS-based navigation technology. The last remaining milestone: Miniaturizing it into a wrist-worn device.
Divers cannot use terrestrial GPS satellite technology, as the high-frequency signal can only penetrate approximately 2 millimeters into the water. Over the years, there have been a number of attempts based on ultrasonic signals, but limitations caused by signal reflections and many other environmental drawbacks have made these products impractical.
The idea behind Project Ariadna is to use an inertial navigation data fusion principle to calculate a diver’s position when submerged. At the surface, the GPS signal is used as a point of reference. Immediately upon submerging, Ariadna switches to its inertial data fusion technology. Using 11 independent sensors and an extremely sophisticated algorithm, it processes data in real time and calculates the movement vectors.
As a result, a diver can monitor graphically, in real time, his exact position and executed route on the map. Ariadna technology provides a diver with precise, turn-by-turn navigation along the planned route. After diving, the resulting 3D-dive log can be reviewed with such tools as Google Earth for post-dive analysis and sharing with other divers.
Underwater “Google Maps”
Project Ariadna gives divers access to all the familiar features of common GPS navigation systems, such as Points of Interest (POI). The list of POIs in Ariadna’s system enables divers to plan intriguing routes, even in new dive sites. It also possible to add a new POI during a dive to mark new discoveries, as well as to attach them later on underwater photos and videos.
It’s possible to review and accurately allocate pictures taken along a dive route by using Google Earth software features during post-dive analysis. One of Project Ariadna’s big goals is to eventually create an underwater map of the world with underwater POIs already marked and ready for easy route planning.
With its ability to record, save and share routes with precise POI markings, it’s hoped that Ariadna will be a useful tool for scientists, underwater biologists and explorers. The precise-position information provided by Ariadna as GPS coordinates will make all location-data related tasks, such as cave surveying and mapping of underwater archaeological sites, more effective and straightforward. Data collected with Ariadna can also be exported to external software for further processing.
Improving Diver Safety
Losing your way in bad visibility can increase stress levels and lead to panic. Anxiety can also result in increased gas consumption and an urge to ascend too quickly, or to surface in a dangerous spot. Using Project Ariadna may help divers reduce stress by providing constantly updated location awareness, as well as other safety-related features, such as Remaining Bottom Time and Distance (RBTD), an extension of the currently used RBT technology. To further improve dive safety, Ariadna offers the “Navigate Home” function, which graphically indicates the shortest route to the dive entry point, and is activated with a single press of a button. Although the technology is already operational, the commercial launch of Project Ariadna is expected in 2017.