Click. WHOOSH! Your new Freedivers Recovery Vest Mark II (FRV) activates and immediately flips you onto your back as it sends you to the surface. Not sure why the vest activated, you check the LCD screen, which tells you the reason for inflation—you exceeded your preset depth or time settings. Inflation can also occur after you have made a “premature dive,” which can be an intended dive or an unconscious “sink out” within the initial 15-second protective period after surfacing. This happens if you fail to press a button that tells the FRV you intended to make this quick dive. You may also have pressed the remote button 4 times rapidly or you may have failed to acknowledge you were okay at the end of the initial 15-second surface period. Any of these scenarios will cause inflation. However, if you stay within your own personal dive profile the FRV will never fire.
After seven years of intense effort, input from the freedive community, and a grant from the Navy SEALS, we have developed a reliable, lightweight, streamlined—and affordable—freediver recovery system.
Seven years ago a friend, who had just lost a dive buddy to freediver blackout, called me suggesting a life vest for freedivers be developed. He thought we could do something with a dead-man switch which, when released, would inflate the vest. The problem, I told him, was most divers receive no advance warning they are going to black out, and furthermore, their hand might spasm closed over the switch preventing it from operating. We agreed that an automatic system would be better.
Our early thinking was based on a simple timer-only system that would bring the diver to the surface if he stayed down too long. Over the next few years, things got complicated when we realized there needed to be some method to deal with excessive depth, and also we needed to address the problem of surface blackout since nearly 50% of freediver blackouts occur on the surface following a dive.
We started an Internet forum with the idea of collaborating on plans for a simple timed device—stay down too long and the vest inflates. Soon, one of the contributors pointed out that a diver might easily sink too deep before their time setting was reached. We needed a depth maximum as well.
Adding depth monitoring to the device changed the whole concept from a simple timed device—utilizing off-the-shelf timers—into a complex system requiring a depth sensor, electronics to read and interpret the sensor, and a circuit board to connect the various components. Oceanic Safety Systems was formed to develop an integrated, dependable and robust system programmed to fit the diver’s own parameters for both time and depth limits.
Further into our research, we began to appreciate that many freediver accidents occur at the end of the dive, on the surface, almost immediately upon surfacing. We now realized that we needed a method for confirming the diver was conscious on the surface. The FRV’s “Surface Minder” option makes the diver confirm he is conscious. He must press the button on the remote communicator light at the end of 15 seconds to prove he is conscious, at which time the light extinguishes and the diver is free for his next dive. Failure to push the button causes the vest to inflate and to quickly flip the diver onto his back.
We completed our first FRV model last year 2011 and delivered over 50 units worldwide. Early in the 2012 we were contacted by the DOD on behalf of the Navy SEALS, who requested a submersible life vest similar in function to the FRV. Fortunately, we won the competition to supply the Navy SEALS with prototypes. Because weight is a primary consideration for the SEALS, we completely redesigned the FRV to use CO2 cylinders, which reduced the weight and size by two-thirds.
Perfecting the inflation bladder and vest presented a challenge. We wanted something durable, streamlined, easy-to-fit, and lightweight that did not interfere with weight belts, deep breathing, or gun cocking. Most importantly, we needed the inflation component to always bring the diver to the surface in a face-up rescue position. The FRV Mark II meets these goals.
The actuator that fills the bladder is designed to provide sufficient volume at any depth the diver chooses (up to 330 feet or 100 meters). It uses CO2 cylinders for the inflation source, and will produce adequate inflation provided the user chooses the correct size CO2 cylinder with adequate capacity for their maximum depth setting.
While the actuator is tucked away on your back, you communicate with a small lighted-button module worn on your arm in the biceps region. The bright light tells you when a dive has ended and it blinks when you need to press the button. The remote connects with a short wire running back to the vest near your armpit.
Oceanic Safety Systems is proud to introduce the new FRV Mark II – a streamlined, lightweight vest worn by freedivers to address three common problems associated with freediving: staying down too long, going too deep, or descending uncontrollably upon reaching the surface after a dive. While the FRV provides a reliable recovery system, it should not be considered as a substitute for good freediver instruction, a reliable buddy diver, or safe freedive practices. For more information please visit the Oceanic Safety Systems website
You can also view Video training chapters on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/OceanicRecoveryVests