Helium without the squealium


Divex, of Aberdeenshire, UK has been awarded a contract to supply the US Navy with their state-of-the-art helium speech unscrambling diver communications system the HeliCom Matrix.

Divex, a subsidiary of James Fisher and Sons plc and a world leader in commercial and defence diving products, has received the order from the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) through American partner, Chase Supply Inc.

To be used at their deep trials and training facility in Panama City, Florida, the HeliCom Matrix is a fully digital diver communication system that provides communications for the chamber complex and wet test chamber. The client required a system where they could communicate with all personnel from one central system and were impressed with the large, easy to use, touch screen interface and how it could be tailored to suit their system.

Launched in 2010, the HeliCom Matrix is the first of its type; a helium speech unscrambling communication system which retains all of the original voice pattern to ensure clear, concise and intelligible communication is provided for divers operating in extreme depths and conditions. With improved speech intelligibility comes improved safety for the divers and this was a major contributing factor during the design phase.

Saturation divers use helium as the major component of the special breathing-gas mixture called heliox (a mixture of helium and oxygen).  One of the disadvantages of helium is the “Donald Duck” effect on the voice which complicates the communication process. Early helium speech unscramblers created a lot of distortion which made it difficult for reliable diver communication.

The HeliCom Matrix achieves superior, crystal-clear diver helium voice communication through advanced DSP (digital signal processing) helium speech decoding techniques. The helium speech from the pressurised divers and the chamber occupants are mixed in an audio mixer before decoding to the selected gas and environmental settings by a digital signal processing circuit (DSP). This has been the key element of HeliCom’s success –the clarity of speech irrespective of the depth the diver is working.

HeliCom Matrix is a step forward over existing implementations because of the incorporation of precise modelling of the translations introduced by the Heliox mixture on the human voice including both pitch and envelope distortion. It has a high speech intelligibility level score, averaging 97% during modified rhyme tests at depths of up to 350metres depth – it is unrivalled in the field.

The HeliCom Matrix also offers automatic unscrambling which is unique to the Divex system. This removes the need for user interaction to control the depth at which the unscrambler is operating, providing greater accuracy and ease of use.

Divex MD, Derek Clarke said: “With the US Navy considered to be at the pinnacle of diving technology this win is very significant as it endorses the unique benefits HeliComTM brings to diver safety and comprehension of voice communications which are key to diving operations.”



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