Once a crash situation is detected, the D-air vest works similarly to automobile airbag technology, inflating pretty much instantly — more on that in a bit. The D-air control unit monitors the suit's various sensors more than 1,000 times per second. In the downhill skiing vest model of the D-air suit, the airbags inflate around anatomically precise areas of the skiers back, neck, collarbones, and the back of the skull.
The airbags themselves represent the pneumatic part of the system, and the level of precision engineering here is equal to the system's electronic components. Once triggered by the algorithms, the pneumatic gas generator fills the airbags in 40 milliseconds. For comparison, consider that blinking your eyes takes around 300 milliseconds.
The current D-air system is the result of more than 15 years of research and development, said Marco Pastore, racing director for Dianese. The company has been deploying various models of the D-air system in official racing events since 2007, particularly in motorcycle races.
“Motorbike and skiing are the sports where we've already reached great results with D-air technology,” Pastore told Seeker, emailing from the winter games in Pyeongchang. “Our R&D department keeps working and analyzing sports where we could innovate and protect people with the airbag system.”
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Due to licensing issues with the International Olympic Committee, company officials from equipment providers are not authorized to discuss Olympic events while they're underway. But Pastore can confirm that there are about 40 athletes currently using the D-air system in competition at this year's events: 30 men and 10 women, approximately.
Pastore says the company is hoping to eventually bring the D-air system to other areas of human endeavor — those that don't require accelerating to 100-plus miles per hour. Dianese is already marketing D-air systems for bicycle and equestrian sports, but the company has ambitions outside the sporting world, as well.
“[We] are currently working with D-air technology on other special projects for workers, aged people, and children’s transportation,” Pastore said.