If you have any interest in scuba diving, you know the high costs that can be associated with the necessary gear. Quality scuba gear can cost you hundreds of dollars, and refilling the tank alone can cost up to fifty bucks per use. Then there’s the problem with diving certification, which can cost even more and take weeks to validate before you can finally get out into the water.
All of this can be extremely frustrating, especially to those who are just getting into the hobby.
AirBuddy aims to change all of that, making it easier for anyone to get into the diving hobby for a fraction of the price. In this guide we will talk about the AirBuddy brand and how they aim to change diving for the better.
What Exactly is the AirBuddy?
AirBuddy is a diving invention originally presented through Kickstarter in April of 2017, and it was fully funded far before the campaign ended.
AirBuddy is branded as the “smallest and lightest diving gear in the world,” and was designed for easy, shallow water diving that doesn’t require heavy equipment. It is said to offer 45 minutes of continuous diving, and can reach a maximum depth of 12 meters, or 40 feet.
The AirBuddy is a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving gear – to create a fun and convenient diving experience.
Rather than use air tanks, the AirBuddy uses a small air compressor that pressurizes the air from the surface to be delivered to the diver using a coiled feed pipe. The compressor sits in a floatation device that floats along the surface, following the diver as they explore. This floatation device also acts as an air reservoir and can be used to provide emergency air. The kit also includes a diver hose and harness, so there’s no need to go out and buy more gear.
Charging the AirBuddy is as easy as charging a phone, and the 12V battery can be plugged directly into the wall. The battery takes about 3.5 hours to charge, and offers 45 minutes of continuous diving before needing to be plugged in again. This is comparable to a normal scuba trip, as a single tank of air can only provide you between 45 and 60 minutes of diving time before a refill is needed.
AirBuddy Feature Overview
Integrated Air Reservoir
The integrated air reservoir is the bright red floatation device that keeps the AirBuddy compressor in place. Pressurized air is fed from the reservoir and down the feed tube to provide the diver with oxygen from the surface. It has a 15L capacity that is steadily filled with pressurized air, which provides the device with constant buoyancy so it can easily follow behind the diver.
This reservoir is also used to help balance the diver’s breathing pattern, and will provide emergency air should the battery run out.
Detachable Magnetic Switch
Safety is incredibly important when it comes to diving, and the AirBuddy strives to keep their divers safe. One of the most impressive safety features is the detachable magnetic switch, which can only be used by the diver. When you detach the switch, the AirBuddy will switch on to provide a constant pressurized airflow.
The switch can be worn as a wristband, preventing accidental switch-off during a dive. To turn off the AirBuddy, simply replace the magnetic switch back on the device.
12V Water-Cooled Compressor
The 12 VDC air compressor provides the diver with pressurized air from the surface. It is designed for maximum performance at a minimum size of only 17.2 pounds.
The AirBuddy compressor works by taking the air from the surface and condensing it so that the diver below the water can breathe it safely. The AirBuddy is water cooled to prevent adiabatic heating, a phenomenon that happens when air heats up due to atmospheric pressure changes.
The compressor is also designed with a low center of gravity, which helps keep the AirBuddy from capsizing during a dive.
High Capacity LiFePO4 Battery
This lightweight, high-capacity battery can offer up to 45 minutes of uninterrupted diving. It can be charged using a regular power outlet in about 3.5 hours, so you will be able to go out more than just once a day.
There is also an audible low battery warning that will warn divers when the charge is about to run out, signaling that they should come back to the surface.
AirBuddy Frequently Asked Questions
How is AirBuddy different from other diving equipment?
Traditional scuba diving takes a lot of time and effort, and often requires weeks of planning.
While traditional scuba diving allows you to dive up to 130 feet deep, there is always the risk of decompression sickness. This is why scuba diving requires vigorous training before you can go out into the water.
Scuba equipment is also heavy and expensive, and many hobbyists can only afford to rent equipment once in a while. For example, filling a tank up for use will often cost divers $50 for an hour of use.
The AirBuddy was designed to alleviate many of these restrictions to provide a fun, safe diving experience that can be used by anyone.
The AirBuddy comes with everything you need to dive, so there’s no need to worry about expensive rental equipment. You can use the AirBuddy without a diving license, making it one of the most accessible diving options currently available.
While the AirBuddy only allows you to go 40 feet deep, the reduced depth takes out the risk of decompression sickness while allowing you to explore shallow waters.
Can I travel with the AirBuddy?
Unlike scuba gear, which is bulky and heavy, the AirBuddy is lightweight and can be carried just about anywhere. One of the best parts about the AirBuddy is the ability to bring it onto airplanes, which is something you cannot do with scuba equipment.
The only ‘dangerous’ item on the AirBuddy is the lithium battery, so it’s advised that AirBuddy users check with their airline before packing their unit in their suitcase.
How long does the AirBuddy battery last?
On a full charge, the AirBuddy battery can last about 60 minutes of continuous use before the battery is completely depleted. However, it is not suggested that you still be diving when the AirBuddy device stops for safety reasons.
To keep divers safe, AirBuddy has a battery level monitor that will send audible signals to the diver once the battery drops below 11V. This typically happens after about 45 minutes of use.
How do I charge the AirBuddy battery?
The AirBuddy comes with a charger that can fit into any main power outlet. Simply plug the included charger into the wall, and then hook it up to the battery. The AirBuddy battery takes approximated 3.5 hours to gain a complete charge from a fully depleted battery.
Is the AirBuddy loud?
The AirBuddy makes a few sounds during operation, which can be heard just underneath the waters surface.
The gentle buzzing sound comes from the air compressor, which means that the device is working properly. You will also hear the sound of your own breathing, along with a crackling sound from the bubbles as you breathe out.
The final sound if the low battery alarm, which can be heard by the diver below. If you hear the low battery sound, it is in indication that you should ascend.
Does diving with AirBuddy cause decompression sickness?
Decompression sickness, or “the bends,” is a condition that can develop while diving for long periods of time. When you breathe condensed air, your body tissue absorbs more nitrogen. This causes the formation of gas bubbles, which can disrupt the blood vessels or nerves.
The AirBuddy allows you to dive at a safer level of 40 feet, without having to make decompression stops. It is suggested that you wait at least 15 minutes between dives, and make safety stops at the end of the dive to ensure proper decompression safety.
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Purchasing the AirBuddy
The AirBuddy is still only available for pre-order, and has moved from the fully funded Kickstarter to an IndieGoGo campaign.
You can order the AirBuddy unit on the campaign page, with an estimated delivery on September 2018. They offer a 23% discount from the overall price and once it will be released to the public, it will cost higher.
There is also an option to reserve an AirBuddy, which allows you to put a down payment of about five hundred dollars and pay the rest once the product is released.
Our Final Thoughts on Diving with the AirBuddy
Though we have not had a chance to try the AirBuddy out for ourselves, we are very excited about this product. Diving is a great hobby that isn’t currently accessible to a lot of people due to the time and money commitments required to get the right gear.
We think that the AirBuddy will be a huge hit with both new and professional divers, and we are excited to see how they company will expand once they are finally able to dive in to the market.