How Does Air Integration Work? | Mike's Dive Store
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How Does Air Integration Work?

How Does Air Integration Work?

 Wireless air integration has been around for some time now but has become more popular than ever with almost all the main equipment manufacturers offering their own version.

 

A wireless transmitter sends pressure data – traditionally via radio frequency -   from your cylinder straight to a “paired” dive computer. The screen displays your tank pressure and calculates how long it would last you at that depth based on your breathing rate. It also creates a custom decompression profile. In short you get all the dive information in a single device, providing very accurate dive parameters. Air integration is also available via a hose which houses a pressure sensor. Tank information is sent to a console-style dive computer, often inside a rubber boot. This style is more bulky however and not so popular today.

 

Wireless Air Integration is way more reliable now than when it first appeared. In the beginning there were issues with pairing (particularly on boats where divers had the same equipment) but technology evolved to boost transmission distance, while unique serial numbers were introduced which put an end to cross-communication. Certain safety features now also exist also such as an LED that changes colour as your cylinder pressure drops. It goes from green to orange then red as you get closer to your reserve. This is a handy visual guide for you and your buddy during the dive.

 

Despite technological advances, transmitters haven’t got any smaller. Most of their bulk is the battery inside. Because of this you need to take good care of them. Carry them in a dry padded pouch when not in use, don’t be afraid to tell boat crew or your buddy not to lift your cylinder from the transmitter and make sure the threads are cared for, or you will ruin your first stage as well.

 

Transmitters have always been traditionally “backed up” by SPGs as divers were worried about failure. And yet risks exist with analogue equipment also: o-rings split, glass can crack and hoses blow. However, we don’t go diving with 2 pressure gauges do we? For technical divers, transmitter failure can be disastrous, especially when they still have decompression stops and gas switches to do. On most technical dives, these guys (and girls!) still use SPGs however even here the tide is beginning to change and more and more tec divers are using transmitters.

 

In most cases transmitters should only be used with the matching brand dive computer.  This makes things costly if you upgrade to a more advanced model or one from a different manufacturer. However, there are often package deals or promotions where the transmitter is free. It only becomes a big expense if you want to dive with numerous cylinders. In this case SPGs will also be better value for money! 

 

Air consumption data is downloaded as part of the dive profile when logging your dive. It is a nice way to follow how your consumption rate develops the more dive experience you gain. Below are just a few examples of the related products we stock at Mike’s Dive Store. Please see our page Air Integrated Dive Computers for the whole range.

 

Suunto

 

The Suunto Wireless Tank Pressure Transmitter is compatible with many Suunto computers including the D4i Novo, and Vyper Novo. It uses an analogue signal. Powered by a user-replaceable 3v lithium ½ AA battery, battery life is approximately 2 years (100 dives/year). The transmitter’s handy green LED light lets you know that it is on, and its transparent base means you can see the light from virtually any angle.

 

While the Suunto Tank POD does the same job over similar distances to the Wireless Transmitter, it uses a digital signal rather than an analogue one. This is why only the newer EON Steel/EON Steel Black, EON Core and D5 currently support it. The reworked proximity pairing procedure is very intuitive; just pressurize the system, hold your Suunto computer close to the Tank POD and after a few seconds a menu shows on the screen showing the serial number, battery status and tank pressure. A green LED Function Alert tells you when the unit is functioning. It uses a 3.6v lithium ½ AA battery which also has a 2 Year Battery Life (100 dives/year).

 

With the Suunto D5 you can connect wirelessly with up to 3 Suunto Tank PODs to display tank and gas information during the dive. The EON Steel and EON Core have wireless air integration with support for up to 10 Tank Pods, while the EON Steel Black can support up to 20!

 

Shearwater and Aqualung

 

Aqualung owns Pelagic Pressure Systems (PPS) and they manufacture the Aqualung transmitter which is very popular as it works across both the Aqualung and Shearwater range. It also features a user changeable battery.

 

Shearwater Research advises that as long as the transmitter is marked with "FCC ID MH8A" on the body then the transmitter - regardless of the brand - will also work with their dive computers, at the moment this includes both the Aqualung and Oceanic transmitters. There is an official Shearwater AI Transmitter that is available only in yellow. The AI transmitter has a 1m wireless range and is depth rated up to 150m. It has a user replaceable CR2 Lithium battery.

 

Data is transmitted to the computer using low-frequency (38kHz) radio frequency communications. Each transmitter has a unique serial number etched on its body. All communications are coded with this number so that the source of each pressure reading can be identified. You only need to set this once, as it will be permanently saved in the settings memory. To maximise the battery life, transmitters will revert to an idle power saving state until cylinder pressure reactivates them.

 

The ever-popular Aqualung i770R is the flagship air integrated dive computer which pairs with up to 4 transmitters along with a super bright colour screen and superb battery life.

 

The Perdix AI Dive Computer can connect to two transmitters giving the more advanced recreational diver the option to monitor two tanks, like in sidemount diving. While gas pressure for two tanks can be shown simultaneously, Gas Time Remaining (GTR) is calculated based on the assigned tank and based on the current Surface Air Consumption (SAC) rate. GTR calculations on the Shearwater Perdix AI are meant for no-stop (i.e. no decompression) dives. You will receive a warning when reserve and critical pressures reached.

 

In 2018 the Shearwater Teric became the company’s first model to be in a watch format. It still had all the features that the manufacturer was famous for, but could also be your everyday timepiece.

Teric is the Perdix AI’s more advanced little brother. It too can sync with two wireless transmitters to track the gas mixes in two tanks but it includes open-circuit and closed-circuit Air, Nitrox and Trimix multi-gas functionality.

 

Garmin

 

While most transmitters use radio frequency to transmit data, radio waves don’t travel particularly well through water. Garmin developed a sonar-based technology for the Descent Mk2i because sonar works best in water, giving significant improvement in transmission range. The Garmin Descent Mk2i can pair with up to 5 T1 transmitters via SubWave™. Ideal for sidemount divers, it gives the option of showing the readings from two separate T1 transmitters within a 10 metre underwater range.

 

For use as a recreational, technical or closed-circuit rebreather dive computer, the Garmin Descent Mk2i also offers fitness tracking and smartwatch capabilities too. A great all rounder!

 

Mares

 

Mares have a number of air integrated dive computers all of which use the wireless LED tank module. The Mares transmitter features a colour coding system on the LED light which indicates when the tank is running low, a useful feature on the surface before diving or for monitoring your buddy under the water.

 

The LED tank module pairs with the Genius, the Quad Air and the Smart Air too and is one of the best value ways to purchase an air integrated computer!

 

Scubapro

 

The Scubapro LED Smart+ Transmitter works with Scubapro's most advanced dive computers including the G2 and Galileo Luna. It has a built-in LED located at the top of the cap that gives you an estimate of pressure when the first stage is attached to a tank. You only need to pair it to your computer the very first time you use it, and coded transmission technology prevents interference between different dive computers. It is powered by a user replaceable CR2450 lithium battery that will last for three years or 150 to 200 dives. The LED Smart+ Transmitter will blink colours that correspond to the remaining air pressure in the tank. Green means full or high air pressure, orange means midway, and red means low on air. This makes it easy for your dive buddy to notice your air pressure just by looking at the transmitter.

 

The G2 dive computer can connect with up to 11 transmitters when all the different features are fully enabled.

 

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