Wildsnow has uncovered a patent that Arc’teryx filed last March 2012 outlining an innovative avalanche airbag system. Looking to circumvent the inherent problems associated with gas cartridges, the Arc’teryx system uses no compressed gas but instead 100% ambient air to inflate the avalanche air bag.
Current avalanche airbag systems rely on the use of compressed gas to fully inflate the airbag. These systems are limited by their one time cartridge use and must be replaced or refilled before the airbag is useful again. Some might argue this is not such as bad thing- if you were caught in an avalanche and had to deploy the airbag, it just might be a good time to head inside to the bar.
Compressed gas cartridges themselves present many problems. The airbag volume is limited by the size of the cartridge. You can’t travel with compressed gas and therefore must be sure to buy cartridges at your destination (if available) before heading out into the backcountry. Compressed gas can get expensive, meaning users have likely not practiced deploying the airbag or received any training on the system.
Looking to do away with compressed gas altogether, inflation of the Arc’teryx avalanche airbag system is achieved through a battery powered electric motor that draws in ambient air. The motor will fully inflate the airbag within a 2.5-5 second timeframe. The battery will run for up to 50 activations before needing to be recharged, and the use of 100% ambient air reduces the weight of the system by up to half of that of compressed gas systems.
The Arc’teryx avalanche airbag system can be manually or remotely activated. The patent explores the possibility of an automatic emergency mode. When switched on, a gyroscopic or altitude sensor realizes you are tumbling head over heels and triggers the airbag inflation. Coupled with a time duration delay, inadvertent activations could be avoided.
Let’s hope we find out more details about the motor powered avalanche airbag system from Arc’teryx at Outdoor Retailer next week.