Dainese D-Air: satellites, accelerometers and the safest suit ever

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This is the final production version of Dainese D-Air, the new airbag equipped racing suits that you’ve seen Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo racing in this year. Dainese’s is the most sophisticated motorcycle airbag yet. 10 years in the making, D-Air incorporates GPS, three accelerometers, three gyroscopic sensors, the ability to fully inflate in .05 seconds, deflate in 5 seconds and it will reduce forces transmitted to the shoulders and collarbone tenfold while also preventing neck injuries caused by hyperextension or flexion. Dainese D-air is the future of motorcycle safety and this news story is exclusive to Hell For Leather.

D-Air isn’t the first airbag-equipped leather suit to be unveiled. We attended the unveiling of Alpinestars TechAir last April, but that system won’t go on sale until next summer and, despite the similarities, isn’t as sophisticated as Dainese’s solution. RS-Taichi, Spidi and others also offer airbag-equipped suits or jackets, but those all rely on a lanyard connecting rider to bike, limiting their practicality and effectiveness (forgetfulness will cost you and, in some accidents, the rider doesn’t always fully depart the bike before impact occurs).

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D-Air is similar to TechAir not just in name, but also in form. Both systems are incorporated into a suit’s aerodynamic hump and inflate inside the suit. Both are also designed to deflate quickly to allow for race restarts, but Alpinestars’ airbag takes 20 seconds to fully deflate to Dainese’s 5-second time. TechAir allows for a second discharge in case of an accident after a race restart, it’s not currently if D-Air is also so capable.

TechAir also incorporates accelerometers and gyroscopic sensors like D-Air, but Alpinestars does not make use of a GPS unit. That might help explain the weight difference between the two: TechAir wighs 500g to D-Air’s 650g.

The reason that D-Air incorporates a GPS sensor is in order to measure speed. Dainese is serious about only triggering airbag inflation when it’s really needed and claims the system is able to tell the difference between the kind of low-side where you slide without tumbling — not necessitating airbag protection — and the kind of low-side where you bounce and spin along the ground — requiring the added impact protection.

Using the three accelerometers, which each monitor movement in a single plane and the gyroscopic sensors, D-Air can also tell the difference between a low-side and a high-side, when you definitely want some added impact protection. Just ask Valentino Rossi, who credits the system with reducing the severity of the injuries he suffered when he highsided at Mugello this summer, breaking his leg.

“The airbag in my leathers worked very well and my helmet was just slightly scratched,” Rossi said from his hospital bed after the 111mph crash. “I don’t have a single bruise! The problem was that I landed on my leg, and it was stuck under my body. If I had landed on my back it would have been different.”

Dainese didn’t stop there with GPS or the other sensors though. Since they’re there anyways, Dainese’s enabled them to collect performance metrics like lap times (accurate to .1 seconds), top speed, rates of acceleration and deceleration, lean angle and precise locations of all the above. You can connect the suit to your computer to download this data via USB. The suit incorporates a rechargeable battery that lasts for up to eight hours.

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As you can see in this short video, D-Air incorporates an external multicolor LED status display mounted on the suit’s sleeve.

It seems crazy that we’ve come this far into an article about a new airbag without discussing the bag itself. Filling to 5-liters of capacity, the bag inflates around the shoulders and collarbone provide, Dainese claims, a “tenfold” reduction in impact forces to the areas it protects when compared to the company’s existing body armor. The areas of the suit surrounding the bag incorporate an elastic material, allowing the suit to expand as the bag inflates. Of the two bags you can see in this photo, it’s the one on the right that will be incorporated into this iteration of D-Air. A system for road use is still under development and will presumably incorporate the expanded area of bag coverage.

When inflated, D-Air also serves as a sort of bumper for the helmet, helping prevent your neck from bending too far to the side or rear.

Dainese plans to officially unveil D-Air at EICMA next week and it will be available along with the rest of the company’s 2011 collection. We don’t currently know what kind of premium D-Air will demand, but Alpinestars will add $2,500 to the cost of its suits for TechAir. D-Air will not be available in the US, likely due to liability concerns.

  • GuessWho

    After the crash what will it cost to have those balloons stuffed back into the suit? Looks and sounds like something only a well funded team can afford, not something for your average street crash dummy.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yeah, this iteration is meant for racers, professional and amateur who want to spend the money on less down time due to injuries.

      • GuessWho

        You sure? Dainese will have to offer this to the public. Sounds like a lot of R&D and money spent on the “who want to spend the money” racers.
        And what about the lower back and legs? Great, my collar bone is fine but pushing myself around in this wheelchair for the rest of my life sucks balls. Ha.
        They’ll probably work their way up to that.

    • richard gozinya

      It’s probably something the end user can do themself, will just take some time. It sure beats a broken collar bone/shoulder/neck, regardless of the difficulties in stuffing airbags.

    • Grive

      Well, whatever it costs… can’t be more than new, and it’s certainly gonna be cheaper than the added bills at the hospital.

      Still, this is a racing application. I’m guessing the road version will be simpler (maybe, say, with less resolution in measurements) and thus cheaper all around.

  • http://www.twitter.com/beastincarnate Beast Incarnate

    It’s great to see how quickly this technology is advancing. $2,500 is surprisingly affordable already for racing; I wonder how long until it’s more reasonable for commuters?

  • 2ndderivative

    How about a version that inflates with helium? Then instead of hitting the ground, you’d just float away from it. Depending on the prevailing winds you could even continue your sightseeing trip without interruption.

  • JimSmiffy

    Looking at the pic of Val’s Suit inflated makes me wonder why Dainese scrapped the initial design they came up with. You know the one that I think SuperSic was wearing like 3 yrs ago when racing 250′s. When it inflated it looked like Chris Farly in BlackSheep with the airline inflateable life vest around his neck. Remember that one? Any way I thought that design had a lot of promise b/c it prevented the helmet from rolling and the neck from breaking. This new system looks like Dainese copied alpinestars’ design of the airbag inflating w/in the suit. Now i know some of you will claim that Astars is copying Dainese but as a former Astars employee I can attest to them working on the airbag in 2004 when I was working for them in Torrance/Agora Hills.