Unfortunately, one of the more iconic visuals of winter sports has to be the infamous footage of a ski jumper falling and tumbling as the Wide World of Sports narration describes “the agony of defeat.”
To help protect against some of this agony, Dainese has developed their D-air system, which is designed to be worn under a ski suit and serve as a preventative measure against the falls that can take place as competitors tear down ski hills at 80+mph. The D-air Ski is integrated into a back plate placed beneath a skier’s suit. It uses a combination of sensors and three accelerometers and gyroscopes that interface with a GPS up to 1,000 times per second. Using factors such as speed, location on the hill, and the skier’s body position, a proprietary algorithm determines if a crash is likely. If so, the D-air inflates an airbag covering the torso, shoulders and back to lessen the impact of a fall.
It reportedly deploys in 45 milliseconds, which is quicker than the blink of an eye, and only adds about 1.7 pounds of extra weight. Amongst the 40 skiers reportedly using the system at the Pyeongchang Olympics is Lindsey Vonn. Dainese claims their complex calculations have proven to be 100 accurate so far. And no, they do not source from Takata.
Although the skiing version is not commercially available yet, the technology actually comes from the motorcycle market. A comparable version designed for bike riders is available for $1,700. But every time the airbag deploys, a new one needs to be purchased for $250.