Feeds

Segway builders develop speedy swim fins

DARPA, Navy SEALs team with dorkmobile firm on super-Flippers

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The company which gave the world the Segway has developed a revolutionary new set of swim fins, twice as efficient as the ones worn by divers today.

DEKA Research, previously most famous for its electric dorkmobile, has previously bid for Pentagon cash with its remarkable man-launching pneumatic cannon, intended to hurl soldiers onto roofs without the use of vulnerable hovering helicopters. Unsurprisingly, the grunt-gun was developed under the auspices of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, eccentric powerhouse of Pentagon boffinry.

DARPA and DEKA have also collaborated on a more reasonable scheme for underwater rather than airborne use. According to this US government document (vast pdf; page 133), DEKA was awarded $2,809,407 in 2005 to develop "a novel concept for combat swimmers".

The idea was to "increase the overall swimming efficiency such that a given combat swimmer can demonstrate a sustainable speed of 50 per cent higher than the typical sustainable speed achieved using standard-issue swim fins, and to reduce by a factor of two the metabolic energy required to maintain a sustained speed of one knot."

According to news from the DARPAtech conference underway this week in California, DEKA has actually done better than this. Bill Sweetman, editor in chief of Defense Technology International, reports that the DARPA/DEKA Powerswim effort has borne fruit impressively.

Apparently, US Navy SEALs with the Powerswim equipment attached to their legs in lieu of regular swim fins can sustain speeds of better than two knots, which should have the world's underwater warriors beating a path to DEKA's door. Back when your correspondent was serving with the Royal Navy's diving branch, a single knot was seen as the most that could be expected over any long period.

Sweetman says some SEALs apparently don't like the new gear, feeling that it makes life too easy. "SEALs are like Catholic school - if it doesn't hurt it's not good for you," he was told. That certainly rings true; your correspondent once complained about an easily-fixed kit problem as a trainee, and was told: "If we made it easy, everybody would be doing it."

Elite-forces masochism, though, should collapse fast at the prospect of sustainable two knot swimming without vehicles. Furthermore, if the claims are accurate, and the gear is as simple to make as it looks, this will be another piece of DARPA kit which gets wide adoption in the civilian world as well as among the military - like the internet or night-vision goggles. Sports divers and swimmers are sure to be clamouring for Powerswim rigs soon along with the world's military divers and special forces.

Interestingly, it seems the DEKA/DARPA team developed Powerswim by studying the swim techniques of dolphins, among other creatures. It used to be a 30 pressups offence to refer to the use of "flippers" rather than fins in the RN diving branch, but it seems that the derivation of the new kit might make that rule obsolete. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle
Red-hatted mascot, red-colored logo, red-stained finance books
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.