Self-Driving Scuba Scooters Wreak Havoc On Blacktip Island Reefs


‘Doc’ Plank, owner of Bamboo You scuba outfitters, shows off the company’s new ‘Jacques’ self-driving diver propulsion device on a Blacktip Island reef Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Marco Busdraghi)

A Blacktip Island entrepreneur this week released the ‘Jacques,’ a line of self-driving underwater diver propulsion devices, sparking controversy among the small Caribbean island’s scuba-diving guests and dive staffs.

“This is the wave of the future,” Bamboo You owner Piers ‘Doc’ Plank said. “We can either get out in front of it, or drown in it. Divers today don’t want to kick. They just want to look at fish. The ‘Jacques’ scooter lets them do that.

“With this new generation of DPVs, you just carabiner yourself to it with the included ‘Jacques Strap,’ and it’ll take you on a tour of the reef at whatever speed you want,” Plank said. “It’s got terrain sensors, and all the island dive sites have been programmed into its GPS. And they’re made of 100-percent-recycled water bottles, and use green batteries.”

Dive staff had mixed opinions about the devices.

“Doc gave each dive company one of these new gizmos so we could lead dives with ‘em,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel said. “They’re pretty bad-ass, looks- and performance-wise. Even if he is just using us for marketing. I can chase king-hell out of any fish on the reef.”

Others were alarmed by the scooters.

“These things’ll put us all out of jobs,” Blacktip Haven divemaster Booger Bottoms said. “Pretty soon all the guests’ll have them and they won’t need us. Ol’ Doc’s already working on an app that’ll give a running commentary about what critters they’re seeing on the dive. This’s an existential threat to our way of life.”

Some users complained of safety issues.

“I was out on Wahoo Reef this morning on a Jacques, and it self-steered me into three, four coral heads,” Joey Pompano said. “BAM! I’m still bleeding from the last one. You have no idea where that thing’ll take you. It ran into other divers, too. I tried to explain it was the scooter, not me, but folks weren’t having it.

“The really scary thing, though, was Finn up at Club Scuba Doo had a Jacques blow up mid-dive,” Pompano said. “Not sure what a ‘green battery’ is, but you overload ‘em, they’ll explode, right in your face. There’s also been people hacking these things and sending divers all over creation.”

Plank brushed aside those concerns.

“Sure, we’re working out a few kinks, but this is still a better DPV that anything else on the market,” he said. “As for putting folks out of work, they just need to take advantage of the new opportunities the Jacques will create.”

Plank would neither confirm nor deny reports of Jacques ramming multiple snorkelers, and singling out young children in particular.

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