La Pinilla, a small ski resort just 1h north of Madrid, 2nd of February. There could be no one better than one of the fastest men on skis in the world, Jan Farrell, to crash test the airbag for skiers, D-air® Ski. The device is the result of a co-operation between Dainese, market leader for protection in sports, and the International Ski Federation (FIS) to improve safety of alpine ski racers, specifically in speed disciplines. This test is one step forward before the Beaver Creek FIS Alpine World Championships, USA, which start tomorrow.
At a speed of 80kph, substantially less than one of Jan’s standard runs, the crash occurred. The D-air® activated successfully, ensuring a safe injury-free fall and demonstrating the performance of the system. Jan stated: “Before the first impact against the ground, the D-air deployed. I heard a boom and instantly felt how the airbag inflated, it was like being inside a shell. I felt safe and protected during the fall: after the initial tumbling and sliding for about 70m, I came to a stop, unbruised.”
This is the first time Dainese has performed a simulation in real life conditions with a production unit, aside internal initial testing. Vittorio Cafaggi, Director of Strategic Development was present during the testing in the Spanish La Pinilla resort, stated: “today’s test was very important in case any athlete still had any doubts. Thanks to Jan, we’ve tested that the system works and that it doesn’t interfere in the natural movements and performance of the skiers.”
This simulation also demonstrates the versatility of the product, being valid for other disciplines such as Speed Skiing, as Jan stated: “My initial preoccupation regarding chest compression (it inflates with a high pressure inside the suit) was unfounded, so now I’m planning to use it always during ski training. Next time we’re testing in the Wind Tunnel I’ll measure its interaction with my aerodynamics at 200km/h, but in principle it looks promising: I think it could be possible to use it during high-speed races and record attempts. Certainly for my future Sand-Dune Guinness World Record attempt it’s going to be great to be able to use it.”
The crash algorithm
D-air® Ski is able to absorb 61% of the force generated by impact and is fully integrated into an elastic vest that fits under the race suit and above the back protector. The algorithm now implemented in the D-air® Ski system is the result of a thorough analysis of data from the runs of the World Cup over two seasons, involving 4 federations, 26 athletes, 238 runs and 700 minutes of data. It was written to meet the specific requirements of Alpine skiing, it activates each time the athlete's body performs rotations that are anomalous compared to normal racing dynamics and the signals coming from 7 sensors exceeds a predetermined threshold.
The two building blocks of the D-air® Ski are the electronic and the pneumatic components. The electronics are housed in a pack on the back and include an inertial platform with 3 accelerometers, 3 gyroscopes, a GPS, a microprocessor for algorithm management and memory. Signals from these sensors are constantly analysed by the algorithm, and inflation is triggered if the conditions require it; The pneumatics consist of a bag with an internal 3D structure, inflatable to high pressure, and a "cold" gas generator.