The United States Navy is looking to make missions safer for its divers with its new life support system.
The recently unveiled diving suit prototype is designed to be more efficient than previous models by using less helium, according to Engadget. Today's suits use the Fly-Away Mixed Gas System (FMGS), which vents gases exhaled by the divers into the ocean, wasting huge amounts of oxygen and helium in the process.
Navy scientists say the new suit comes with an updated helmet and breather, and that tests show the suit can help save helium at a time when the world is experiencing a shortage in the noble gas.
"This new, semi-closed system was conceived to drastically reduce helium requirements," said Dr. John Camperman, principal investigator at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Panama City (NSWC PC). "And where possible we also incorporated proven technology in the system in order to speed transition to operators."
Camperman added that tests showed that "several life support characteristics are improved, including extended emergency come-home gas duration."
The suit's low need for helium gives the Navy the chance to save money because divers will be able to use smaller vehicles since the suits take up less space in vessels, Engadget reported. This also makes it easier for divers to escape dangerous situations and for first responders to quickly reach locations that are difficult to get to.
The Navy is developing the diving suit under the Initial Response Diving (IRD) project, which is aimed at helping divers recover objects more quickly, specifically within 36 hours of deployment in depths of 600 feet across the world.