At the 2014 winter Olympics, downhill racers will carry “ski airbags”
Dainese, the Italian company that already gave us the body airbag for the motorcycle sport, is currently finetuning its airbag for downhill skiing, in order to be ready for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (Russia).
The “ski airbag” is part of an agreement between Dainese and the International Ski Federation (FIS) to make downhill skiing safer. Since the early 1990′s, three downhill skiers lost their lives in races (I still vividly remember the images of Ulrike Maier in 1994), and one skier was paralysed after a fall in 2001.
Last week, Dainese announced that the company studied 160 downhill runs by top skiers to feed its algorithm that has to decide whether to deploy or not.
This is kind of important when you’re skiing at 130 kmh, but it’s also technically a big challenge, according to Allessandro Bellati, the technical manager of the D-Air Ski project: “The line between normal race behavior and a fall is in many cases very thin.”
Bellati: “It has not been easy to define the algorithm deployment strategy. Only very careful analysis of this data has allowed us to define the algorithm which we have now applied to the software of the platforms given to skiers.”
“During this early stage we have opted for a “safe” calibration setting which launches deployment only when it is reasonably sure that the skier has in fact fallen”.
Compared to the bike gear, the ski airbag is bigger in the chest area but smaller at the back, where skiers already have a back protector in place. It’s also lighter.
The improved system will now be tested by international top downhill racers. Since this season, the FIS has approved the system to be used for testing not only during heats, but also in real racing conditions.
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