Utah Department of Public Safety

Dive Team - Equipment of the DPS Dive Team

The nature of the work the DPS Dive Team is called upon to perfrom requires an extensive and unique inventory of equipment.  The initial equipment acquisition was by courtesy of the US Department of Homeland Security.  Even today, the overwhelming majority of equipment is provided by the federal government.  Below you will be introduced to the equipment the DPS Dive Team utilizes. 

Of course, no official endorsement of any particular item is permitted by Utah State government policies.  Enjoy the presentation of the equipment. 

Capt. Doug McCleve.

This 26' Almar Boat was acquired by courtesy of the US Department of homeland Security as a platform for the two sonars utilized by the DPS Dive Team.  It is a stable and efficient craft for the various types of deployments the Dive Team responds to.

It is an all aluminum boat with a 200hp two-cycle engine for propulsion.  It is extremely maneuverable and is able to work for many hours at idle speed while the sonars are checking dams or searching for objects or victims.  It has a custom structure in order to operate the Side-Scan Sonar off the front, rather than dragging the sonar behind the boat.  This is a much more efficient approach, rahter than the common drag-behind application.

A close-up view of the Marine Sonics Side-Scan Sonar "fish" resting in its cradle causes one to notice its similarity to a rocket.  Indeed, it does fly through the water as it emits pulses of sound identical to bat sonar. The sonar fish is dragged through the water a short distance above the bottom, sending out high-frequency sound pulses to each side, hence the name "Side-Scan Sonar."  When a pulse encounters an object, it bounces back as an echo, which the computer interpolates into an image on the monitor.  It is amazing to watch an object come onto the screen so clear that is is unquestionably a rock or a bush or a human body.  The Side-Scan Sonar has changed the way the DPS Dive Team does business.  Click here to watch a video clip of the sonar fish functioning in the water.

This is an example of the computer interpolation of the sonar pulses echoing back from the bottom structures.  The rocks and rifts and valleys in this image are totally recognizable.

Using this technology, the DPS Dive Team can spend hours searching the bottom for targets without putting a Diver in the water.  This is not only safer for the Divers, but incredibly more efficient for searching purposes.  It is this technology that allowed the DPS Dive Team to search 12.5 square miles of lake bottom in 11 days during the well-publicized Strawberry Reservoir incident of November 2006.  Now the Divers need only enter the water when the target is found by the sonar.

Here is a photo of the Kongsberg MS-1000 Sector-Scan Sonar just before it is lowered to the bottom on a deployment.  The Sector-Scan unit is stationary in the water and rotates, similar to submarine sonar.  Once the Side-Scan identifies a target, then the Sector-Scan unit is dropped nearby to provide a close-up view of the target.  Often, the Divers descend down the yellow umbilical cord and are voice-guided from the tripod to the target.  Click here to watch a video clip of a diver descending to the tripod and preparing to be guided to a target.

This is an excellent example of a DPS Diver being voice-guided to a target.  In the center of the image is the tripod and sonar head.  The left hemisphere is the flat bottom of the lake.  The right hemisphere is the slope of the shore.  Left of center you can see the Diver.  Right and lower of center you can see a boat laying on the slope.  The water is 75' deep and near-zero-visibility, but the sonar sees right through it.  You can even see the wooden ribs of the boat.

Using this technology, a Diver(s) can be deployed once the target is found and identified.  This is significantly safer than using Divers alone to search, especially when there is no visibility.

This photo is an example of the Almar Boat, Side-Scan Sonar, and Sector-Scan Sonar in deployment mode.  After leaving the dock, a search quadrant will be established and the Side-Scan Sonar will be deployed.  The large box-shaped search area will then be crossed back and forth, much like "mowing the grass," so that the "fish" emits sonar pulses across every square inch of the bottom.  As soon as a viable target comes onto the screeen, a buoy is tossed out to mark the general area where the target is located.  Then, the Sector-Scan Sonar unit is lowered to the bottom and the target is acquired via Sector-Scan.  Often, if the water is deep, the Sector-Scan unit is moved closer and closer to the target until it is less than 10' away ... thus reducing the risk to the Divers even more and making it easier for them to access the target.  Click here to see a video clip of two divers being voice-guided to a drowning victim in deep water.
Although the helicopter is not technically equipment assigned to the DPS Dive Team, it is indispensible when Divers need to be inserted in or extracted from otherwise inaccessible bodies of water. This type of water entry is called "helocasting."  An excellent example is the Garrett Bardsley search that occurred in the High Uinta Mountain range, among several lakes that were in excess of 10,000' altitude.  Click here to see a video clip of DPS Divers training for this unique function.
Helocasting, at first glance, seems thrillilng and adventurous.  Yet, it has been the cause of injuries and deaths to military divers over the years. The DPS Dive Team conducts careful and progressive training, before allowing a Diver to helocast.  This training includes orientation in a pool setting.  Click here to watch a video clip of DPS Divers getting oriented to helocasting via pool exercises.

The DPS Dive Team maintains a trailer to transport necessary equipment to deployment sites.  This trailer is towed behind a diesel Ford Excursion and provides a Dive Team operations center, once at a location.  This trailer has been wired for AC electricity, which can be provided even in remotes sites via a 3500 watt power inverter that is hard-wired into the Excursion.

As you look at location of each of the items within the trailer, you can see that the limited space is used to the best option possible.  Unseen just beyond the white bookshelf on the right side is a row of eight steel 120 cubic foot Nitrox cylinders that are used for complex dives.

The DPS Dive Team utilizes the NUVAIR Element High Pressure air compressor for filling cylinders in remote locations.  This unit provides nine cubic feet per minute of air through two separate fill whips.  It is designed to pressurize Nitrox through its onboard membrane system.
Here you see the Low Pressure Compressor that pumps 175psi air into the Nitrox membrane system of the High Pressure compressor.  When Low Pressure and High Pressure compressors are connected, the Dive Team can choose any Nitrox mixture from 21%-40%.  The two most common mixtures are 32% and 36%. 

The Dive Team utilizes USIA AquaPro Plus drysuits for its primary applications.  This suit has served the Team well in its deployments.  The DPS Dive Team does not perform HazMat diving at this time, so the USIA suit provides ideal protection for the Divers.


The DPS Dive Team uses Poseidon Atmosphere Full Face Masks with X-Stream First Stage Regulators and Jet-Stream Second Stage Regulators.  These masks were chosen for their amazing ability to function in extreme frigid water and also the fact that the local dive shop could provide annual service to the units.

Ocean Technology Systems 2010 Transceivers are connected to the masks so the Divers have underwater communications with each other and the surface support personnel.

The Dive Team uses the Sea Quest Pro QD buoyancy compensator.  It is sufficiently functional, without having unnecessary bells & whistles.  Of special value are the positive locking integrated weight pouches.  The Team learned by sad experience in the first couple years that velcro style connectivity did not survive multiple helocasting water impacts.

Additionally, the Pro QD units have large weight pockets in order to offset the added buoyancy resulting from multiple thermal layers needed for frigid water applications.

This photo displays three DPS Divers preparing to deploy on a complex dive in Bullfrog Marina at Lake Powell.  Of note are the cylinders being used.  These are Faber low pressure steel 120 cubic feet tanks.  Their size and weight are offset by the fact that each cylinder holds approxinmately the same amount of breathing gas as two Aluminum 80 cubic foot tanks.  When the deployment is of either extended depth or duration, the larger 120 cubic foot tanks provide the additional gas necessary to safely conduct the dive.

Notable also on the center and far right tanks are the power modules for the OTS transceivers.

This photo shows a standard Aluminum 80 cubic foot tank.  On the left side of the tank is the OTS transceiver module.  On the right side is an Aluminum 19 cubic foot "redundant air" tank.  This extra tank provides sufficient air to ascend to the surface, should the main supply of breathing gas fail somehow.  The redundant air tank is sometimes called a "Pony Bottle."  It can be detached from the Diver and handed over to another Diver, should the second Diver have need for additional breathing gas.

This image shows the official DPS Dive Team computer, the SUUNTO Vyper.  All training and deployment dives by the Team are performed using this computer.  It is among the most conservative of all dive computers, thus adding an extra safety margin to the Dive Team functions.  The display is very easy to read, even in low visibility conditions.

As a point of interest, this particular computer shows (clockwise from upper left) the current depth to be 104 feet, the maximum depth of this dive was 111 feet, the Diver has four minutes until decompression status, the runtime of this dive is nine minutes, the water temperature is 70F, the Diver is breathing 32% Nitrox, and the computer is set for a high altitude dive (small image of a mountain to the left of the numer 32).  These easy to read characters make each dive as safe as possible.

Any investigation, especially when it's underwater, is enhanced when video of the scene, evidence, and the environment is available.  The DPS Dive Team uses a variety of underwater video cameras, including one that produces HD quality video. Special training for the divers is necessary to acquire the best quality video possible.  It sometimes occurs that the video camera and lights can obtain clearer images of a target than the human eyes are capable of. Click here to watch a video segment taken in near-zero-visibility water.   When enhanced by quality lighting, the video camera captures more than the human eye can see.

This is an example of a digital camera and lights used to take snapshots of Dive Team deployments.  The HID lights provide true colors at all water depths, while this particular camera produces 14 megapixel images.  Numerous high-quality images have been achieved using this combination.

The Dive Team has other digital camera and light configurations that are used when multiple camers need to be used simultaneously.  Click here for an example of one DPS Diver who is documenting another Diver documenting a homicide scene.

[Last Update - Friday, 08-Mar-2013 16:27:05 MST]