Alpinestars Electronic Airbag Technology

Alpinestars started working on active airbag safety technology for motorcycling in 2001. Since then, the project has continuously developed to become a state-of-the-art, fully electronically operated and completely wireless airbag system which provides comprehensive body protection for Alpinestars athletes in top level road racing.

If you've been tuned in to MotoGP racing this season, you might wonder how do some of these racers get up and walk away from crashes that leave the bike a total wreck? To help answer that question, Alpinestars provided us with the following information on their Tech Air airbag system.

For the 2014 race season, the Tech-Air electronic airbag program will equip all Alpinestars MotoGP riders with this extensive body protection system which constantly samples electronic data, every 2 milliseconds and is capable of detecting an accident situation and fully deploying its airbag within 50 milliseconds.

Alpinestars has introduced the current evolution of its Tech-Air electronic, wireless, airbag system into the MotoGP World Championship. This is the only rider airbag system in racing that offers extended protection, covering the shoulders, full back, torso sides and hips with a unique one-piece airbag design.

The result of on-going research and development, since Alpinestars commenced its rider airbag protection project over twelve years ago, sees all Alpinestars MotoGP riders equipped with an airbag that is now eight times greater in volume than the previous generation. This new airbag design, in development for two years, has resulted in a compact, ultra-lightweight and entirely self-contained safety system that offers the most advanced and comprehensive protection possible.

Dani Pedrosa: "The new suit I am using for the 2014 Championship has been re-designed to include the specially developed new airbag system which provides more protection coverage; from the shoulders down to the ribs and even down over the hips. I started using the new system in testing last year at Valencia and the feeling, comfort and flexibility has been improved with the new suit design. Overall I feel it is a clear step forward."

The system features a powerful micro-processor, powered by an internal battery that is connected to an inflator module housed within a compact, shock-proof, casing inside the suit. A one-piece, ergonomically profiled airbag, constructed using a unique 3-D weave technology which has no stitched seams is secured within the leather race suit ensuring excellent fit and comfort for the rider.

While riding, the Tech-Air system monitors the riders movements and the forces experienced, processing data every 2 milliseconds. In the case of a loss of control, the system is capable of making the decision to fire the airbag and have it fully inflated within 50 milliseconds. The speed, sensitivity and reliability of the system has proved to be such that full airbag inflation is consistently well in advance of initial impact, even during low-side crashes.

Tech-Air Airbag System – Technical Specification

Upon deployment, the inflation system releases a cold, pressurized, Nitrogen-based gas mix with the aid of a small pyrotechnic charge that fully inflates the
airbag within 45 milliseconds.

  • Unique, all-in-one airbag, developed by Alpinestars using a highly advanced 3-D weave. The production process is entirely computer controlled with no human interaction and no stitching processes. The ergonomic body shaping is created with a precision laser cutter and the inflation profile is engineered to create an exact body contour following fit. This ensures protection is maximized with accurate positioning throughout an impact sequence.

  • The airbag is designed to optimize protection around the rider's body with sections allowing specific inflation volumes over each area of the body: shoulders – high volume, back – medium volume, torso sides – high volume, hips – medium volume.

  • Alpinestars' in-house developed micro-processor constantly monitors the rider's movements while in motion via sensors located on the arms, legs and processor housing within the suit.

  • The Tech-Air System features a switch on the master control unit which, when placed to 'ON', allows the sensing system to be brought into 'active' mode.

  • The system automatically moves into 'armed' mode when the sensors detect that rider is seated on a motorcycle and moving at low speed. This prevents any chance of the airbag being deployed at times when protection is not required.

  • A compact battery pack powers the Tech-Air system and offers over 8 hours duration in full 'active' and 'armed' mode; i.e. 8 hours riding time. In standby mode, when the system is only 'active', the battery will retain charge for over several weeks. Recharging can be carried out through normal mains power using the connector at the top of the master control unit.

  • Once the micro-processor is 'active' and sensing, it is sampling data from each of the sensors within the suit every 2 milliseconds. In 'armed' mode, when the rider is moving at speed on a bike, the micro-processor samples the sensor data for any irregularities in rider movement or external forces acting upon the rider. These irregularities are defined by algorithms which Alpinestars has developed, and control the micro-processor commands.

  • If these prediction parameters, in relation to what the algorithms define as a crash, are exceeded, the micro-processor will initiate the inflation of the airbag. The inflation trigger time is around 8 milliseconds. (This is the time taken to process data during the rider's initial loss of control, ensuring the situation indicated a crash).

  • Upon deployment, the inflation system releases a cold, pressurized, Nitrogen-based gas mix with the aid of a small pyrotechnic charge that fully inflates the airbag within 45 milliseconds.

  • Typically, the predictive performance of the Alpinestars Tech Air system protects the rider with a fully inflated airbag well in advance of the first impact with the track/road surface, even in low-side accident situations.

  • Once inflated, the airbag offers over 5 seconds of full inflation protection to the rider before beginning to deflate. This ensures a prolonged, highly effective impact absorption barrier for both clavicles and shoulders, the full back, torso sides and both hips during any fall the rider may suffer.

  • The Tech-Air Race leather suit has specifically engineered expansion zones to accommodate the airbag in its fully inflated state. (The airbag remains completely contained within the leather suit).

  • Once deflation commences, the airbag fully discharges, allowing the leather suit to return to its normal fit and feel.

  • The Tech-Air system records all data collected in the central processor unit allowing full diagnostic analysis of the rider's movements and the forces experienced during any given session.

  • The battery which powers the micro-processor is installed in the aerodynamic hump on the back of the suit and can be recharged in the same way as a mobile telephone.

  • A series of LED's on the left forearm of the suit informs the rider of the current status of the system and warns of low battery power, any sensor irregularity and the sensing status of the system, i.e. 'active' and/or 'armed'.