The sea and its resources to love and protect, and the man, with his innate desire to explore the depths with increasingly advanced technologies, but also with the limitations imposed by physics and physiology. This is how HYDRA originated, a new and ambitious research project created by DAN Europe and SUEX, in collaboration with the Portofino Marine Protected Area Consortium. A memorandum of understanding was signed last August 3rd in Santa Margherita. For the first time, in fact, the use of DPVs (Diver Propulsion Vehicles, also called underwater scooters) has been allowed inside a Marine Protected Area (MPA) for scientific purposes.
“With the use of underwater scooters the diver is able to reach new and exciting places, expanding the range of his explorations,” says Ivo Calabrese, marketing manager at SUEX, a leading company in the production of DPVs. These vehicles also have the advantage of reducing physical effort whilst diving, with potential positive effects on the diver’s health.
In order to better understand these mechanisms, a specific research protocol has been developed. “Scientific studies in this field are practically non-existent,” says Massimo Pieri, researcher at DAN Europe, an international medical organisation dedicated to the health and safety of divers. “Our aim is to investigate the physiological effects of DPV use, especially focusing on post-dive bubbles, pulmonary stress and alteration of body fluids“, Mr. Pieri continues. The protocol includes clinical tests, as well as pre and post dive diagnostic examinations, such as cardiac and pulmonary echocardiography, and infrared thermal imaging.
Collaboration with the Portofino Marine Protected Area Consortium was a key element. The MPA Director, Mr. Giorgio Fanciulli, signed the memorandum of understanding and issued an official authorisation, allowing the study activities to be carried out inside the Marine Protected Area. In fact, involvement of the Portofino MPA in the HYDRA Project is not limited to the strict diving regulations. Long, multiple dives, covering an extended area, offer a unique opportunity to observe and monitor the surrounding marine environment.
The HYDRA team consists of 14 selected and highly qualified divers. All of them are experienced dive instructors or trainers, and received specific training to collect data. They will be allowed to enter and dive in zones B and C, at a defined speed and strictly respecting the protocol. Four dive sites have been selected: Testa Leone, Altare, Secca Gonzatti and Mohawk Deer.
“It is an integrated, cross-research project that brings different elements together: medical research, technological development, all this respecting the surrounding environment,” declares Laura Marroni, Vice President of DAN Europe.
The first research and monitoring data will start to be collected in the next few days. The investigation will continue until the end of 2018.