The first time the world heard about the airbag was in the 1950s, when the first patent was registered in the USA. It would be another twenty years before it was installed in a production car, in 1973 in fact. American car manufacturers were pioneers in this field. Another twenty years later, in 1994, Lino Dainese foresaw what would be the next step in terms of total motorcycle rider protection. Having invented the back protector and composite protectors, it was time for riders to get their own airbag.
How a car airbag works
The principle of the car airbag is pretty simple. In case of an accident, one or more bags inflate at low pressure, enveloping any blunt objects inside the passenger compartment. The entire protection mechanism activates in case of an accident, but only once this has already begun. In practice, it is as if the impact between a car and the other object were to press the activation switch. The aim of the airbag is to position itself between the passenger and the most dangerous parts of the passenger compartment, to limit any injuries. In truth, with the use of freely inflating airbags, the system protects the car from the passenger.
A three-dimensional airbag around the body
To apply the airbag concept to motorcycling, and therefore the human body, a change of perspective was required. Here, we need to protect the rider from impacts that might not just come from their own vehicle, but from an infinite series of unpredictable, external objects. And, most importantly, the protection must activate prior to impact.
During the D-air® R&D process, Dainese saw that there were two main obstacles to overcome and two areas on which to focus its efforts: to predict the impact and inflate the airbag in time, and control the air flow within the airbag itself. On the one hand, the system's brain needed to be developed from scratch, with the creation of an algorithm and a control unit able to recognize the different dynamics of a crash and activate the entire system in time, and only when necessary. On the other hand, the team worked to engineer a three-dimensional airbag, the heart of the system, that was able to create a real shield around the rider's body.
Considering the whole system needed to fit to the rider's body and respect this new logic of anticipating an impact, Dainese had to reinvent the entire concept, maintaining the basic principle of air protection.
A brain integrated in a motorcycle garment
The Dainese airbag system for motorcycles is integrated into the protective garments – jackets and suits – and, using its sensors, gyroscopes, accelerometers and an electronic control unit that analyzes data 1000 times per second, autonomously identifies situations of risk and activates the protective airbag that covers the most vulnerable parts of the rider's torso. Today, the Dainese algorithm is based on more than two million kilometers of experience, while the control unit has been constantly developed, step by step.
One of the pillars on which Dainese has always founded its product development is ergonomics. However effective, a heavy, uncomfortable protector will never be a solution to the problem, because it will be hard to convince people to wear it. The airbag is no exception and is, in fact, the latest response to this very need. The airbag is an invisible protection, imperceptible until it becomes truly necessary.
The heart of D-air®, the airbag
Dainese D-air® revolutionizes the concept of the airbag. The D-air® airbag is constructed using patented micro-filament technology, the only possible solution for controlling the air flow inside the airbag, conceived by the Dainese R&D team. The micro-filaments connect the walls of the airbag and keep them at a constant distance of 5 cm at every point. The micro-filaments prevent air from moving inside the airbag so that it cannot deform, instead maintaining a uniform pressure across its entire surface.
The result of all this is an airbag that cannot be deformed by impact and that does not behave like an inflated balloon, but ensures uniform protection like a shield*. The air does not move and so does not modify the shape and pressure of the various areas of the airbag, but remains non-deformable with a height of 5 cm across the entire area. The micro-filaments also allow for the airbag itself to have an engineered three-dimensional shape, that covers vulnerable body parts and does not deform when pressurized.
The airbag is created, first and foremost, so that the device itself cannot harm the rider and, secondly, to provide a greater level of safety than that offered by traditional protectors. When inflated, the airbag serves as a shield, able to absorb a lot more energy than a hardshell protector could ever dissipate.
To ensure effective protection with a reduced thickness of five centimeters, pressure control inside the airbag is fundamental. The internal pressure of a D-air® airbag varies between 1.25 and 1.75 bar depending on the model, enough to make it a real shield for the body. This level of pressure allows D-air® to protect better than any other device, absorbing an impact force equal to that which seven traditional Level 1 back protectors could absorb.
The differences between a generic airbag and the D-air® are significant. An airbag without micro-filament technology inflates in a non-uniform way as it is not possible to control the air flow inside it. The micro-filaments allow for a constant distance to be maintained between the two walls of the airbag and for better impact absorption at every point.
The certification received from external bodies such as Dolomiti Cert and TUV only confirms the exceptional protective qualities of Dainese devices. The latest generation D-air® Road garments are certified as airbags, without the presence of hardshell protective gear. Smart Jacket achieves Level 2 on the chest and Level 1 on the back, while other D-air® Road and Racing garments are Level 2 certified.
D-air® cannot be seen
The air protection is invisible and intangible up until the moment it needs to be activated. Greater protection is combined with unrivaled lightness and comfort to match that of a traditional garment.
More than 25 years of Dainese experience in studying the airbag have allowed the technology to be perfected, in terms of both its protection and its ergonomics, meaning that it is difficult to distinguish between a D-air® garment and a traditional garment at first glance.
The same product, with or without D-air®, differs in weight by just a few grams and is exactly the same in terms of the comfort and freedom of movement it offers. When uninflated, the airbag is imperceptible and perfectly integrated within the garment. It takes a trained eye to spot the zippers and differences in the specific liners of D-air® garments. The latest step Dainese has taken in this direction is Smart Jacket, a safe, lightweight and versatile vest that condenses all the D-air® technology into a few grams. A garment that can be worn with any outfit and that suits any type of road use.
The Dainese D-air® airbag is the fruit of decades of research. From the concept of air protection, Dainese has developed a solution able to protect riders like never before, more than any traditional hardshell protector ever could. This extremely effective airbag also considers freedom of movement and lightness, essential in guaranteeing real protection.
*D-air® devices protect those areas declared protective in the Dainese D-air® manual. For further details please read the product user manual.