Appeared in DIVER October 2006

DPV Apollo AV-2
IT WAS A TROPICAL JUNE DAY when I took the Magimix to Wraysbury Lake. It wasnt a food-mixer I was testing, but it could certainly stir up the sediment.
The Apollo AV-2 is an improved version of the AV-1, until recently a very popular diver propulsion vehicle with those reluctant to spend two grand-plus on a serious DPV such as a Silent Submersion or an X-Scooter.
Stuart Cove, who has a remarkably successful dive centre in the Bahamas, features a dive called Wall Flying. He rents out Apollo DPVs to those who want to try it and tells me he finds the AV-1 very reliable and the service back-up from Apollo impeccable.
With the advent of cheaper alternatives made in China, the Japanese Apollo company has had to raise its game, and the AV-2 has some distinct advantages over the older model.
For starters, it has a bigger-amperage battery for longer duration. This lead-acid unit gives around an hour of continuous use. There is also the option of a ni-mh
battery-pack for those for whom the normal run-time is insufficient, giving 100 minutes of continuous use.

Anxious moment
You are no longer in danger of running out of juice, thanks to a remaining-battery-life indicator, though I did have difficulty viewing this while motoring. Its LED shows red, yellow or green, but only when the motor is running.
The battery fills the major space within the housing, which is itself closed by being shut down onto a big O-ring seal, and locked using four cam-catches.
These lock down less securely than I would have liked.
I had an anxious moment after letting another diver have a go with the AV-2, only to see him surface with one catch hanging open. It hadnt flooded, but I feel I was close to sending it back to the importer with a note of apology.
You open it up to connect the charger. Recharging takes six to eight hours.
Another new feature is a variable-speed control trigger, which avoids the sudden quick start that previously made you jump. Take-off is now very smooth.
You can use the AV-2 exactly as you would its predecessor, holding onto the handles at the front and positioning it below you so that the turbulence of its prop-wash passes below you and freely away.
Being tugged along like this for half an hour or so does, however, make your wrists tired.
The more serious DPVs used by technical divers for long cave penetrations allow the diver to be towed by a lanyard attached to his crotch-strap. He simply rotates the unit so that twisting prop-torque does the steering.
Holding onto the handles at the front of the AV-2 allows you to point the thing in the desired direction, but it does mean that your wrists are fighting the natural torque of the propeller, which is why they get tired.
The new saddle arrangement of the AV-2 is therefore a vast improvement on that. You simply squat down onto the front end of the DPV so that it nestles snugly into your crotch.
Reach back and pull the remote control to the speed controller, a solid extension rod that acts on the cam-shaped speed-controller knob.
Once you feel the DPV come alive, you turn into a horizontal swimming position and open the throttle. Your reduced frontal area makes the most of the thrust.
The AV-2 also has a variable-pitch propeller with three alternative settings. On No 1, which gives the highest speed, longest duration but least torque, I recorded 3.95 kmph on the underwater speedometer lent by Pete McCarthy, inventor of the Natures Wing split fin concept. The manufacturer promises a top speed of 4kmph, so that seems good enough. Im not the smallest diver to push around.
Just because its made of yellow ABS plastic and isnt black, dont discount this DPV as a serious divers tool. I will stick
my neck out and suggest that the back-end looks very much like the Mako back-end that all those other serious US-made DPVs have adopted as their powertrain. Using ABS also takes care of maintenance after use in salt-water.
That top speed may not sound very quick, but a finning diver would have no chance of keeping up. If you refer to last years comparison tests of DPVs you will note that had the AV-2 been there, it might well have won!
Changing the pitch of the prop gives less speed, slower acceleration and higher consumption but more torque - so a big fella with a heavy load to push, say a drysuit, twin-set and sling-tanks, may do better to select setting No 2 or 3.
Wraysbury Lake is shallow (I went to 7m) but the AV-2 is rated to 70m so it is viable for deeper dives that require more tanks. With the higher-rated ni-mh battery and employing the hands-free ride-on saddle, the maker claims it can travel more than 7km in still water on one charge.
I zipped round Wraysbury Lake with the AV-2 between my legs. Hands-free, it was easy to take speedo readings.
Wraysbury water is far from gin-clear water and I would continually lose my way, so did not know if I was being pushed in a straight line.
I admit that I found it quite difficult to make acute turns when suddenly confronted by a bank or the legs of a jetty, an easy task on something like the ultra-expensive ride-on Farallon, which I could steer by pointing my fins.
The ride-on saddle of the AV-2 also has two wings that can be swung out. Eventually one of us realised that these allow you to tow a goody bag or even another diver or two without either getting in the way of the prop-wash.
In fresh water, the AV-2 seemed very ready to sink. It is certainly more buoyant in sea water, although its battery is now quite a beast. Optional accessories include an inflatable jacket to help in recovering the AV-2 easily at the surface.
The Apollo AV-2 with lead-acid battery costs £1305.
  • Apollo,

  • Divernet Divernet
    + A serious DPV
    + Good value compared to similar performers

    - Quite hard to steer when ridden on