AirBuddy is a battery-powered floating dive compressor. It draws fresh air from the surface through the dive flag, compresses and stores it inside the air reservoir (float), and then delivers on demand through the hose and specialised dive regulator. AirBuddy floats on the surface and follows along as you dive.
This kind of dive gear is known as recreational SSBA (Surface Supplied Breathing Apparatus) or Hookah Dive Gear.
We designed AirBuddy for maximum performance, comfort, and safety at the minimum weight and size. The innovative features of AirBuddy previously not found in other recreational SSBA include:
- integrated reservoir with 16L pressurised air for safe ascent in case of an emergency
- low battery underwater notification system
- water cooled air compressor for maximum performance at a minimum size
- LiFePO4 battery for low weight, long life, and highest Li-Ion safety
- secure magnetic switch with a detachable key
- recoil hose for better position control and kink-resistance
- elaborate airways to prevent intrusion of splash water
- position switch and electronic system to minimize the risk of water ingress
- centre of gravity below waterline acting like a keel on a boat
Atmospheric pressure at sea level is approx. 1 bar. The weight of water adds additional 1 bar of pressure for every 10m of depth. This pressure is pushing against our body. It doesn’t affect most of our organs because solids and liquids are by law of physics incompressible. It does however affect the air spaces in our body, and therefore our lungs. Because air (just like any other gas) is compressible. Our breathing muscles (diaphragm, intercostal and abdominal muscles) aren’t strong enough to force our lungs open against the water pressure. Hence why we need to breathe air at the same pressure as the surrounding for our lungs to work properly.
It is fundamentally different from freediving (breath-hold diving). Understanding the difference is crucial for your safety! With freediving, you inhale surface air at normal atmospheric pressure and as you descend, the water pressure shrinks your lungs. As you ascend, your lungs expand back to their initial size. In contrary, and similar to SCUBA, when diving with AirBuddy, you breathe in compressed air so that your lungs operate at their normal capacity despite the pressure at depth. Therefore, you must NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH ON ASCENT! You must continuously breathe in and out to allow the air pressure in your lungs to adjust to the surrounding pressure. If you were to hold your breath and ascend, the air in your lungs could expand to a volume larger than the capacity of your lungs and you risk pulmonary barotrauma (lung over-expansion) which is a serious medical condition. If continuous breathing is not possible, e.g. due to a loss of air supply and you perform an emergency ascent (CESA), slowly exhale (making an “aaaaaaaah” sound) as you swim towards the surface. This is the most important rule of diving, and you must remember this at all times.
The similarity with SCUBA is that you breathe compressed air. Other than that, it’s quite different. With SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), you take all the air you’ll need during your dive with you, in a steel or aluminium tank. A standard Al-80 tank with 11 litre internal capacity can store about 2300 litres of atmospheric air when pressurised to 210 bar. This extremely compressed air is then slowly released through a 2-stage regulator for breathing at the low pressure. With SSBA (Surface-Supplied Breathing Apparatus), you only compress the air to the pressure that is required for breathing underwater, not storing of the air. The pressure in the system is therefore much lower. AirBuddy is set to provide air at maximum 2.6 bar to allow you to dive up to the depth of 12m for about 55 minutes. In fact, the SSBA (or Hookah Dive Gear) has been around for longer than SCUBA. What makes it really interesting now is that in combination with the latest technologies and advanced materials, it’s finally possible to manufacture compact, lightweight units – like AirBuddy.
SNUBA uses compressed air cylinders on a raft on the surface whereas AirBuddy is a battery powered floating compressor. With AirBuddy, you are independent of air refills at dive centres (logistics) and the gear is much lighter.
A standard Al-80 SCUBA tank contains about 2300 litres of air that weigh approx. 2.9kg. As you consume this air your tank becomes lighter, thus more buoyant. Since SSBA doesn’t use a tank, there is no buoyancy shift to compensate for. Your buoyancy is static. The key to neutral buoyancy is just correct weighting. Once, before the dive.
Unlike SCUBA, you are free to change your depth without ever thinking of re-adjusting your buoyancy during the dive. It’s an amazing feeling! Something that you can’t experience with any other forms of diving. When freediving, the pressure squeezes your lungs, thus you lose buoyancy as you descend, and re-gain buoyancy as you ascend. With SCUBA, you compensate for the changing buoyancy of the tank as well as the exacerbating effect of the contracting/ expanding air inside the BCD. On a rebreather, you manage buoyancy by a combination of correct weighting, wing (BCD), counterlung and drysuit (if used).
Note: A buoyancy change of a 3-5mm neoprene wetsuit is rather negligible in the shallow depths.