Gear / Parts Alpinestars unveils Electronic Airbag Suit

Alpinestars unveils Electronic Airbag Suit

Motorcycle Safety Apparel

Alpinestars started working on electronic, wireless, motorcycle airbag technology at the beginning of this millennium. The project has culminated in the development of a state-of-the-art, fully functional airbag safety system in an advanced Alpinestars leather racing suit.

This MotoGP developed technology provides an active, yet compact, protection system for Alpinestars athletes in top level road racing and will, ultimately, be available to riders everywhere.

Since its inception, the motorcycle safety apparel development program has gone through many stages of development; with they key milestones of the project being:

1) The creation of a functional, airbag system as a proof of concept for motorcycle racing.

2) Development of the launch control component and data logging capability.

3) The introduction of analysis tools to analyze the large amount of real time data acquired by the highly advanced AST (Alpinestars – Advanced Safety Technology) data logging systems.

4) Ongoing development of the airbag system based on test data, rider feedback and where relevant, the incorporation of the latest technological advances in electronics and sensing components.

5) Medical and accident statistical research into injury causes and computer simulation of active prevention covering crucial anatomy most susceptible to crash damage.

6) Deployment of the active system to MotoGP riders and road riders to fine tune the activation parameters of the airbags for both the road and racetrack.

7) Continually refining the fit and functionality of the device in preparation for commercial launch.

The airbag itself is powered by a battery pack and is inflated using a nitrogen based gas mix. At present the system incorporates two bags covering the rider’s shoulders and collar bones, offering a trigger to full bag inflation time of less than 0.05 seconds which gives the rider in excess of 5 seconds of vital protection.

Over the years of road race testing, a massive amount of real time data has been collected from which highly complex algorithms have been derived to manage the launch control process (crash detection), with software optimized for both road riding and racetrack environments.

A hugely significant step and one crucial for racing use, was Alpinestars’ development of the now patented dual charge system. This innovation offers the rider two airbag inflations without needing to reset or recharge the system, allowing them to re-mount after a motorcycle racing crash and continue riding, safe in the knowledge that the system will give them the same level of protection if they go down a second time.

Since the 2003 German MotoGP, when John Hopkins became the first Alpinestars rider to use an active data logging system, extensive testing and development has continued. By 2007 in Moto GP, when Casey Stoner was using the system, the power of the electronics had improved dramatically allowing the recording of many different physical inputs which helped create a detailed electronic picture of the dynamic forces involved in riding and most importantly, crashing a motorcycle.

During the first MotoGP race of this season, a number of riders, including Ben Spies and Dani Pedrosa, carried electronic control systems to further test the monitoring and firing sequences.

For the rest of the 2010 racing season, the Alpinestars Electronic Airbag research program will see the phased introduction of systems for Alpinestars riders in the many Championships it supports, before a commercial equivalent is made available, bringing the benefits of active protection to a wider audience.

Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

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