Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Stealth suit for close encounters

Warren Bird says the secret of the 'stealth wetsuit' is that it can conceal human electric signals. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Warren Bird says the secret of the 'stealth wetsuit' is that it can conceal human electric signals. Photo / Steven McNicholl

An Auckland company says a "stealth wetsuit" it has helped to develop will allow scuba divers and spear fishermen to get closer to marine life.

Glenfield-based textile and apparel firm FOB Direct worked with a mill in Taiwan to develop a carbon fabric called the Hecs Stealthscreen.

Chief executive Warren Bird said the fabric concealed the faint electric signals emitted by humans and detected by all kinds of underwater species. The fabric has been incorporated into wetsuits made by Xcel, a United States brand, and will be launched at diving industry trade show in Florida today.

Bird says one of the challenges of developing the technology, which uses a carbon yarn knitted in a grid format that blocks electrical currents, was making sure the fabric was stretchy enough to be incorporated into the inner lining of a neoprene wetsuit. The Hecs Stealthscreen has already been built into clothing used by hunters.

He said Xcel was targeting the spear-fishing market, but the suits would also be useful for marine researchers and underwater photographers.

The Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, in Santa Cruz, California, had used the wetsuits and endorsed the technology, he said.

"They've been able to use the technology and get closer to species."

Bird said that even though the wetsuits allowed divers to get closer to potentially dangerous creatures such as sharks, they actually made the activity safer.

"The agitation level of marine species is reduced because they're not picking up on the electro-magnetic reception," he said. "The aggression is subdued, particularly with sharks, because the sharks are aware of the diver wearing the Hec suit, but they're not so agitated by that diver."

Bird says the suits will be on sale by February for about US$600 ($738). FOB Direct has operations in Bangladesh, China and New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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