the scrapbook of diving history

The Sintef Unimed ‘FUDT’ diving helmet

When visiting the NUI Institute during an excursion organized with the ‘Northern Divers Meeting 2013’ in Bergen, Norway, a helmet was shown which was completely unknown to us. It appeared a prototype of a reclaim helmet built by the Norwegian Sintef Unimed research organization, the so called ‘FUDT helmet’. During the visit I asked Kåre Segadal (the man responsible for this project with NUI) if he had some additional info for me and a few weeks later I received 3 Manuals on this spectacular diving helmet. Many thanks to Kåre Segadal. This helmet appeared to be a project administered by the Nowegian company OBS S/A and carried out by Sintef Unimed. OBS previously had built a reclaim helmet based on a KM SL17 mainframe, check the previous chapter for more info.

The main advantage of this helmet, which design-project started in 1990, is the fact that is is carried on the divers shoulders and not on his head ( spine ) This allows all heavy parts on the helmet to be placed at the lowest side of the helmet leaving the entire top part available for visibility. One mistake seems to have been made at that point: the lexan dome has no flat viewing port causing the divers view to be distorted by the convex shape of it. When speaking with a diver at the Bergen State Diving School it seemed that the helmet was well received by but that this distortion of the view lead to problems. ‘When you looked down to see how far you were away from an object or from the bottom you saw that you still had a few meters to go but in fact you were only a few cm’s away’. Very strange that they never produced this helmet with a better lexan dome ( like for instance the cheap and simple American ‘Aquabell’ diving helmet ) Inside the helmet the diver can freely move his head around because his oral-nasal is not built into the mainframe of the helmet, he wears an oxygen mask as used in Norwegian F16 fighter jets instead.

A total of 6 helmets in 3 different versions were manufactured for testing, the so called 0-series. 4 helmets had the ‘Superflow’ regulators as used on Kirby Morgan diving helmets, 1 had a Sherwood ‘Magnum Blizzard’ regulator and 1 had a Norwegian OBS UBA 90-400 standard regulator. One helmet was equipped with a camera system which was built built into the neck-ring. When the first 2 helmets were ready they were supplied to the State Diving School in Bergen where the first test dives were made with them. These first tests resulted in a change in the helmets design reducing the weight with 2,5 kilo ( from 17,6 to 15,1 kilo ) So the next 4 helmets were built to this new standard. Test-dives were made in the waters around the diving school, the max. depth which was reached was 50 meters. After 100 test dives were done, experienced divers from H.Jensen, Stolt Comex Seaways and Rockwater were invited at the State Diving School in Bergen to evaluate and dive the helmet. In the manual a long row of test results is shown but since its all in Norwegian I do not dare to translate them ( I don’t speak Norwegian, just understand a lot of the words ) but in the final evaluation in this manuals is stated that the average impression of these text divers about the helmet was ‘Positive’.

The good impressions of the helmet were:

  1. -its general view

  2. -balance

  3. -noise-level

  4. -locking Mechanism

  5. -fog removing

The bad impressions were:

  1. -the way the oral nasal was strapped on the divers head

  2. -the nose support for clearing the divers ears was to short

  3. -the weight of the helmet ( only the first 2 helmets, the last 4 were made lighter and were perfectly balanced )

  4. -the drain valve did not function properly

  5. -the position of the locking device between breastplate and bonnet: it would be better when the diver can operate it himself

  6. -it would be better when the locking clips for the handle of the main locking device were larger

  7. -the neck-seal should be made of latex rubber

Interesting design