Deep View

We have been using UWIS for navigation and 3D reconstruction for a while but the tablet has the potential to do more than navigate.

The Android based tablet lives inside an oil filled Alltab housing. The clever design means the touch screen can be used underwater. Its a bit fiddly with fat finger drygloves but just about any task needing finesse is a challenge wearing those. Being Android just about any App can be loaded up and run underwater – the Valtamer navigation software we use is just one example.

Here’s Looking At You

Pertti – CEO at UWIS – wondered if we could load up a 3D model and view one underwater? The Vobster Photogrammetry Project was due to convene again and shoot more of the lake so why not carry a model into the lake? The helicopter needed more work so it made sense to use the 3D model to remind ourselves where we needed to shoot more images. This is a very simplified example of a much larger issue when scanning big wrecks or working in teams.

We always like to test stuff and prove its worth in the real world and with real divers. So we handed the tablet to photographer Kirsty with instructions to navigate to the helicopter. Kirsty doesn’t really dive quarries and had no local knowledge…all ingredients for getting lost. What could possibly go wrong?

Heavy rain had seen visibility drop to a few metres and thats perfect for diver disorientation. No worries – being fed a GPS signal told us exactly where we were and where we needed to be. It was no surprise to see the helicopter appear out of the gloom and the tablet proved its worth again.

The interactive 3D model of the helicopter in front of the real thing. The future of wreck guiding and investigation is here...
The interactive 3D model of the helicopter in front of the real thing. The future of wreck guiding and investigation is here…Image courtesy Kirsty Andrews.

There are plenty of Apps available to view 3D data but why overcomplicate matters? All we needed was a viewer…so before the dive just connect the tablet to WiFi & view a mobile version of the model on Sketchfab. With the model loaded disconnect the WiFi and keep the web page open…yes it really was as simple as that.

Finish the Job

Once the additional images were shot it was time to leave. It was Kirsty’s second dive of the day and the no-decompression limit was approaching. Trusting entirely in the tablet to navigate back we ascended to 8m and swum back without any visual reference – no quarry bed, surface or idea which way was home to guide us. “Trust the tablet” I told myself and after a 60m swim the quarry rock face appeared.

Back home the additional images were added to the chunk and aligned. The model was now reporting higher confidence, good enough to publish a new version to Sketchfab:

It goes without saying an ortho photo and DEM were produced. The ortho photo resolution is 1mm per pixel and hosted by Dronelab in their viewer:

DEM of the Vobster Westland Wessex Helicopter
DEM of the Vobster Westland Wessex Helicopter


The UWIS kit and tablet keeps bringing out the big grins. The possibilities of interactive 3D content on waterproof tablets are massive; navigation, guidance, interpretation…marking and recording…its never been a better time to get into diving and tech. It was a truly surreal moment, interacting with at a 3D model while looking at the real thing whilst hanging in 20m of water.

A very productive day at Vobster. The project continues to break new ground in how 3D data is gathered, processed and used in the underwater world. .Image courtesy Kirsty Andrews.

None of this can happen without support of individuals and companies alike. So its time to say a big thank you to UWIS and Nautilus for loan of some very capable equipment, to Vobster Quay Inland Diving for hosting us, and finally, to all the divers who came along to help out with photos and dive buddies on the day.