Just in time for the Sochi Winter Olympics, Dainese S.p.A., Vincenza, Italy, and the International Ski Federation (FIS) realized a dream—a wearable airbag to protect competitive skiers from a devastating injury on the slopes. D-air® Ski from Dainese S.p.A., a protective system worn on the torso like a vest, has been race tested by Werner Heel, Jan Hudec, Manuel Osborne Paradis and other skiers from the Austrian and French federations. The airbag can deploy in 100 milliseconds and absorb as much as 61 percent of the force of impact.
At the center of the D-air Ski design is the FIS-ISS (Injury Surveillance System) program that has been upgraded significantly since development of the prototype two years ago. The algorithm that decides whether to deploy the D-Air has been improved to better distinguish between a fall and the shock of landing after a planned jump. Based on trauma injury data, the D-air was modified to cover the chest, shoulders, collar bones and cervical vertebrae, protecting more of the body without an increase in weight. Changes were made to prevent recoil against the skier’s body upon rapid inflation of the airbag. And after gaining access to the Ferrari wind tunnel at Maranello, Italy, Dainese discovered that putting the operating part of the airbag on the skier’s back did not affect aerodynamic performance, a key selling point for competitive skiers.
Construction of the D-air Ski (along with other Dainese ski safety items, such as back protectors) includes Crash Absorb material (water-repellent elastic-visco nitrile rubber), an internal insert of Nidaplast® (polypropylene honeycomb material) and steel mesh inserts. “Even though you might think it would limit your movements or be uncomfortable,” says skier Manuel Osborne Paradis, “you don’t even realize you have it on.”