Wednesday, January 13, 2010

new gear

here is some new info for avy safety gear.  this stuff is getting better, but still expensive.  but keep an eye out, as price and weight come down, this will be the "must" piece of gear for everyone.

The inviting expanse of shimmering snow contrasts with the benign blue

sky above. The ski instructor briefly goes over the planned run, his

first charge glides off into the distance ... and sets off a slab

avalanche. The group all look on helplessly as their friend is buried

under a wall of snow. Bernhard Budaker of the Fraunhofer Institute for

Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA knows this kind of scenario

is all too common. But researchers at the Institute recently developed a

new avalanche airbag system for ABS Peter Aschauer GmbH, in which an

electronic unit ensures a ski instructor or friend of any similarly

hapless individual can remotely trigger the airbag stowed in their

backpack. The product went on sale in December 2009. Avalanche airbags

have been in use for over a quarter of a century. A simple tug on the

activation handle will inflate two airbags stowed in a backpack. The

massive extra volume they create gives the body additional buoyancy -

the skier is no longer buried under the snow.

To date, however, the problem has always been that skiers have had to

activate the airbag inflation system themselves. "If skiers fail to

notice in time that they've set off an avalanche, the airbag won't help

them," says Budaker. But now the IPA group manager and his team have

replaced ABS's manual activation unit with an electronic system, and

fitted a new trigger: "We've redesigned the activation handle to

incorporate a number of electronic components, so airbag inflation can

be initiated by other members of a skiing party as well. It will be

perfectly easy to retrofit all the old-style backpacks with the new

system." When the traditional activation handle is pulled, it creates a

pressure wave in the tube, which punctures a gas cartridge and causes

the airbags to inflate. In the new system, a pyrotechnic element is used

to ignite the gas cartridge. As Budaker explains, the electronic

solution offers the advantage of allowing all the airbags carried by a

particular skiing party to be networked: "We transmit on 868 and 915

Megahertz. The optical application programming interface permits

specific groups to be defined. Group members simply need to touch all

their handles together for them to become a unit." One option is for the

ski instructor to be designated the 'master', his charges the 'slaves' -

in this case, only the master can trigger the others' airbags.

Alternatively, all members of the group can be designated masters and

help each other in an emergency. The activation signal currently has a

range of between 350 and 500 meters, but this distance can be extended,

given that every group member effectively acts as a relay station - as

each trigger handle passes on the signal.

Source: Bernhard Budaker Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

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