Dainese has finally developed a FIS (ski racing’s governing body) compliant upper body airbag system for ski racers. These airbags are for crash injury protection versus avalanche safety airbags.
Dainese, the Italian brand known primarily for their motorcycle airbag systems, have been working with FIS since 2012 to develop a similar system that can be applied to ski racing. FIS has been notoriously cranky with the endeavor, turning down model after model, and subsequently missing their Sochi Olympics deadline for the system. But finally, FIS woke up on the right side of the bed. Over the past 8 years, 20% of recorded injuries have included the head, neck, shoulders, and chest. This airbag system hopes to eliminate a significant portion of these injuries.
The system, called D-air Ski, is said to deploy in 100 milliseconds and absorb up to 60% of the impact force. Unlike other skiing airbag systems, this is not a user deployed airbag. A microchip the size of a credit card uses three gyroscopes, three accelerometers, and a GPS unit paired with Dainese’s algorithms to determine when a crash is taking place. Once it senses a crash, within 100 milliseconds – boom. Airbag inflation complete.
The microchip and 1.8-inch-long gas generator sits on the skiers back, adding an additional two pounds of weight. After extensive testing in the wind tunnel in Maranello, Dainese claims it does not affect aerodynamics. Regardless, now that FIS finally loosened up, skier are still reluctant to race with the system. Dainese-sponsored athlete Werner Heel told the Press Herald “We need to fit the suits better to incorporate it,” and added that he’s not ready to race with it yet.
Dainese still has a long road to universal acceptance, but rumor has it they are floating some ideas around about knee injury prevention. If true, this is something racers are guaranteed to adopt quickly.
Jan Faarrell, a speed skier, tested out the system which included a simulated fall. See the video here. See Jan Farrell’s airbag post-deployment below: