Downhill skiers test new wearable airbag at 2018 Olympics

There’s no getting around it — downhill skiing is a dangerous sport. And while the Olympians engaged in downhill races are doubtless some of the most talented folks in the game, the breakneck speeds they’re able to reach put them even more at risk for a potentially catastrophic crash. Luckily, there’s a way to safeguard against tragedy thanks to the new D-air system by Dainese. The Italian company has developed a technology that is currently being used by some competitors in Pyeongchang to detect when a crash is imminent, and inflate an airbag underneath a spandex ski suit in order to protect the wearer from more serious harm.

The D-air Ski is integrated in a back plate that is placed underneath a skier’s suit. It uses three accelerometers and three gyroscopes in order to communicate with GPS an impressive 1,000 times per second in order to determine if a crash may be on the radar. In case of danger, the D-air inflates the airbag, hopefully lessening the resulting impact.

The particularly tricky thing about developing the system for downhill skiing is determining what exactly constitutes a crash. After all, skiers spend a lot of time in the air, not touching down on solid ground (or snow), but that’s not a crash — it’s just par for the course. While there isn’t a ton of external data to support this claim, Dainese Executive Vice President Roberto Sadowsky claims that the company’s algorithm “has proven to work pretty much 100 percent.”

The airbag claims to deploy in just 45 milliseconds, and only adds around 1.7 pounds of extra weight to a skier. Already, a number of notable names in the ski world are using D-air, including Olympian Lindsey Vonn.

“It’s really a safety support tool,” Sadowsky told CNET. “It’s something that [skiers] adopt naturally because they want to be protected.”

Currently, the D-air Ski isn’t available for us laymen to purchase, but if you’re interested in donning a wearable airbag for another purpose, you can actually buy the motorcycle version of the D-air for a cool $1,700. But don’t think this is a one-time cost — every time you deploy an airbag, you’ll have to buy a new one, and those cost $250 each. But then again, can you so easily put a price on your safety?

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