The outdoor digerati were all abuzz last week after Popular Science Magazine published a one page teaser on the new motorized avalanche airbag technology from Black Diamond. Called Jetforce, the technology uses a two inch fan that spins at 60,000 RPM to instantly fill the bag with ambient air. This all sounds very similar to the Arc’teryx technology that was uncovered earlier this year, leaving us to wonder if the future of avalanche airbag inflation is in electric motors, not gas cartridges.
The PopSci article goes on to reveal that a trigger handle unzips from a pocket on the left backpack strap. Before riding, a button on the handle is pressed to power on the electric motor of the fan. If you are caught in a slide, all you need to do is pull on the handle to initiate inflation of the 200-liter airbag.
The motorized fan will keep pumping air into the bag for up to three minutes at which point it reverses to empty the bag. As most avalanches last around 30 seconds, the idea is that by emptying the airbag, an air pocket would be created around you if you were to be buried beneath all the debris.
The Jetforce airbag itself is made from a durable, silicone coated stretch nylon. If a tear should occur, the motorized fan pumps in air at a fast enough rate as to still keep the airbag inflated.
The rechargeable li-poly battery will enable up to 4 inflations on one charge. The battery will supposedly work down to -22°F temperatures to secure at least one inflation run.
I did a search of the US Patent Database and found nothing on Jetforce from Black Diamond. Looking through the Canadian patent from Arc'teryx, it leaves you to wonder if Black Diamond might have licensed the technology from the company. Arc'teryx makes claims on using a brushless electric motor to power a fan blade for inflating at least one airbag with 100% ambient air to a volume of at least 100 liters in no more than 5 seconds. Either way, I am curious to learn more about both technologies.
The new Black Diamond motorized avalanche airbag technology will be found in the Halo 28 Jetforce pack, retailing for $960 and weighing in at 7.4 lbs. There is no release date as of yet but I wouldn't expect it before the 2014-2015 winter season.