Use of handheld sonar to locate a missing diver

Owen McGrane, Aaron Cronin, David Hile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate whether a handheld sonar device significantly reduces the mean time needed to locate a missing diver. Methods: This institutional review board approved, prospective, crossover study used a voluntary convenience sample of 10 scuba divers. Participants conducted both a standard and modified search to locate a simulated missing diver. The standard search utilized a conventional search pattern starting at the point where the missing diver (simulated) was last seen. The modified search used a sonar beacon to augment the search. For each search method, successful completion of the search was defined as locating the missing diver within 40 minutes. Results: Twenty total dives were completed. Using a standard search pattern, the missing diver was found by only 1 diver (10%), taking 18 minutes and 45 seconds. In the sonar-assisted search group, the missing diver was found by all 10 participants (100%), taking an average of 2 minutes and 47 seconds (SD 1 minute, 20 seconds). Using the nonparametric related samples Wilcoxon signed rank test, actual times between the sonar group and the standard group were significant (P <.01). Using paired samples t tests, the sonar group's self-assessed confidence increased significantly after using the sonar (P <.001), whereas the standard group decreased in confidence (not statistically significant, P =.111). Conclusions: Handheld sonar significantly reduces the mean duration to locate a missing diver as well as increasing users' confidence in their ability to find a missing diver when compared with standard search techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-31
Number of pages4
JournalWilderness and Environmental Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • handheld sonar
  • injury prevention
  • missing scuba diver

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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