One of the core components in GUE’s diving and equipment configuration is the use of underwater propulsion vehicles, also so called „scooters” or DPVs. For the first look it might not be immediately obvious why this equipment is so useful to our dives, other than the fact that it looks like a lot of fun to be pulled around effortlessly and much faster by a scooter underwater. The real reason for DPVs used by divers started in cave exploration…
Before the early years of cave diving, always military applications have brought the requirement of advancing dive technology. In the II. World War Italy was already experimenting with and using so called „manned torpedos” or „human torpedos”. These machines have been proved to be useful as they were able to carry two rebreather divers and warheads in form of limpet mines which allowed the Italians to sink two British warships during the course of the war.
Many years later as cave diving started to develop new tools were needed to reach distant points in caves, which were not possible to do while swimming. Obviously one of the main benefits of DPV diving is that it allows us to cover a much larger area with less effort in a shorter time while consuming less gas. This was the primary reason for the first explorers to introduce some kind of underwater vehicle which supported their dives. Sadly, back then, only a few models were available to divers and all of them had some kind of drawbacks which limited the exploration efforts. We also need to know that even today, GUE’s endorsed type of DPVs must be „tow-behind” stlye of DPVs for many good reasons. The „ride-on” style DPVs have lost their usefulness quite early in the field of cave diving and divers were left with the only „tow-behind” DPV, the Tekna. This model had also it’s limits, basically it was rated for shallow depths and the battery allowed quite short burntimes only. It took some years of exploration until this model proved insufficient too , but divers really liked the features of the DPV in terms of tow style, propeller wash control, easy handling and manuevering with one hand. In the end, WKPP diver Bill Gavin modified the Tekna unit to WKPP needs, he made it deep rated and allowed the DPV to accept a different range of batteries which increased the burntimes. The Gavin scooter was born.
Since then technology advanced, DPVs became easly accessibly, more reliable, smaller, lighter, with long burntimes dependent on the model. Although in the beginning the almost only reason for having a DPV was to explore caves, today technical and recreational divers have seen the benefits of using scooters too. But, of course, overhead DPV use still differs from open water applications and requires proper understanding and handling of the unit in a more controlled environment first. Irrelevant of the nature of the dive, normally with DPV dives we always say; if you can get into trouble underwater a DPV will get you there even easier. We should not forget that a DPV is just another piece of equipment which introduces additional task load to a diver and can and will fail at some point of our dives. As always, the best piece of equipment we have, is ourselves, and DPVs can never act as life saving devices! For these reasons in the GUE diver training system for many years now DPV training has been divided into two categories: DPV 1 and DPV Cave. The main difference between the two classes is the type of diving we are going to undertake with the vehicle. The DPV 1 class acts as a prerequisite to the DPV Cave course where first safe operation, components and philosophy of GUE DPV diving will be introduced to students in open water. The DPV Cave class (or also as earlier called: DPV 2) with sufficient experience builds on top of that and intoduces so called „DPV depenedent” dives in an overhead environment. Naturally it goes without saying that the gas planning, DPV handling and pace of these dives required a separate class after completing Cave 2 and DPV 1.
For all of those who are new to underwater propulsion vehicles and posess at least a GUE Fundamentals or Rec 1 certificate the DPV 1 class can be the best point of start. However, independent of future aspirations, I think it is unargueable that out of all GUE classes the DPV courses offer the most important aspect we all desire in our diving: FUN! There is nothing like having control of the DPV for the first time and being able to cruise along a reef, wall or wreck!