Boob Tube Technology That Helps Deep Sea Repairmen

To eliminate the need for some expensive offshore platforms, oil and gas companies have been moving equipment from the rigs to the sea bottom. But divers who go down to do maintenance on a wellhead's maze of pipes and valves have a difficult job. The water can be so murky that they can't see beyond an outstretched arm, which makes it tough to know just where to apply wrench and screwdriver.

Engineers at British Gas PLC's Research & Technology division in Killingworth, England, have come up with a solution: a sort of electronic TV guide for underwater work. The surface crew sends engineering drawings down via cable to a small video display inside the diver's helmet. The helmet also has a video camera to help the diver navigate the murky depths. What the camera sees is relayed topside, where the image is computer-enhanced, then sent back to the helmet display. British Gas is introducing the system for its divers and plans to market it to others as well.

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