Air Bag Technology: Concept to Product
Alpinestars began working on electronic, wireless airbag technology at the beginning of this millennium. Initially designed for and tested with Alpinestars athletes, this project has culminated in the development of a state-of-the-art, fully functional airbag system.
As with all Alpinestars product, this system has been thoroughly researched and developed in the most demanding laboratory… the racetrack. With invaluable feedback and input from Alpinestars road racing athletes, the system was refined and perfected. Now, with over 10 years of research, development and design behind it and a team of technicians, scientists and designers committed to it, the Tech Air Race Suit is being introduced to the public.
Since its inception, the program has gone through many stages of development with the key milestones being:
- The creation of a functional, airbag system as a proof of concept
- Development of the crash-identification algorithm component and data logging capability
- The introduction of analysis tools to process the large amount of real time data acquired by the highly advanced AST (Advanced Safety Technology) data logging systems
- 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
- Medical and accident statistical research into injury causes and computer simulation of active prevention covering crucial anatomy most susceptible to crash damage
- Development of the Tech Air Race Suit, a modified version of Alpinestars’ leather racing suit accommodating the electronics, sensors, inflators and airbags
- Deployment of the active system to MotoGP riders and also amateur racers to fine-tune the activation parameters of the airbags for varying intensities of riding
- 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 collarbones, offering a trigger to full bag inflation time of less than 0.05 seconds and maintaining adequate pressure to provide the rider a minimum of 5 seconds of vital protection.
Over the years of testing, a massive amount of real time data has been collected from which highly complex algorithms were derived to manage the deployment process, with software optimized to predict the occurrence of both lowside and highside crashes.
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. This allows the rider to re-mount after a 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, when Casey Stoner was using the system, the power of the electronics had improved dramatically allowing the recording of many different physical inputs. This improved capability 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 carried electronic control systems to further test the monitoring and firing sequences.
For the 2010 racing season, the Alpinestars Electronic Airbag research program saw the introduction of the first systems for Alpinestars riders in the many Championships it supports.
Throughout the 2011 Moto GP season, nearly every Alpinestars athlete wore a fully active Tech Air Race suit and many benefitted from the system deploying during practice sessions, qualifying and/or the race. 2011 also saw the introduction of the first Tech Air Race suit for consumer application when the suit went on sale in Europe in July.