The new Pegasus Thruster, the world’s first hands-free diver propulsion unit (or, underwater scooter) was recently tested and adapted for use in the waters of the Florida Keys — a fitting “first” for the island chain known as the dive capital of North America.
Dean Vitale, an aerospace engineer who has spent much of his free time in the past 12 years diving recreationally in the Keys, created the Pegasus Thruster and tested it on dives out of Spencer Slate’s Atlantis Dive Center in Key Largo.
The Pegasus Thruster is the only diver propulsion unit in the world that is tank-mounted, hands-free, and allows the diver to replace its battery underwater. It reduces diver fatigue and increases dive time, with a battery that lasts 45 minutes when used continuously or two tank dives if used intermittently.
“The best place to use the Pegasus Thruster is on big wrecks like the Spiegel Grove and Vandenberg,” Vitale said. “You’re able to see the entire ship on one dive, which nobody in the world could do fin kicking.”
As well as providing increased exploration opportunities for the average diver, the underwater scooter also caters to disabled divers. The tank-mounted Pegasus is operated by the touch of a button, which can be pushed by the chin for divers with limited use of their limbs.
Using the Pegasus Thruster, Vitale has been a top contender at four recent Formula H2O Underwater Scooter Races. He took first-place honors at the inaugural Vandenberg Underwater Grand Prix held in June in the waters off Key West.