Military diving operations are routinely conducted in what can be one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet, frequently characterized by zero visibility. The inability to clearly see the immediate operational environment has historically been a serious limitation to manned diving operations — whether the mission is ship husbandry, under water construction, salvage, or scientific research.
U.S. Navy diving is an integral part of the nation’s defense strategy with a continuing requirement to conduct manned intervention in the water column. To ensure technical superiority across the entire spectrum of diving operations we must identify, exploit, and de velop technology to advance the state-of-the-art in diving equipment. This can only be achieved by investing in, and supporting, focused research and development with specific goals to further diving capabilities.
Under a project sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) has de veloped a prototype see-through head-up display system for a U. S. Navy diving helmet — the Divers Augmented Vision Display (DAVD). The DAVD system uses waveguide optical display modules that couple images from a micro display into a waveguide optic, translate the images through a series of internal reflections, finally exiting toward the diver’s eye providing a magnified, see-through virtual image at a specific distance in front of the diver. The virtual images can be critical information and sensor data including sonar images, ship husbandry and underwater construction schematics, enhanced navigation displays, augmented reality, and text messages.
NSWC PCD is the U.S. Navy’s leading laboratory for research, development, testing, evaluation, and technology transition of diver visual display systems; with unique facilities for rapid prototyping and manufacturing, human systems integration and extreme environment testing. Along with NSWC PCD, the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU), and Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) are co-located tenant commands at the Naval Support Activity Panama City (NSA PC).
This paper provides a brief background on the development of diver head-up display systems, waveguide optical display technology, development of the DAVD prototype, results of diver evaluations, and recommendations for accelerated development of this game changing capability.