AEROSIZE – a hybrid airbag rescuing lives during an avalanche
AEROSIZE – hybrid avalanche airbags
Name of Beneficiary/Beneficiaries
AEROSIZE Sp. z o.o.
Name of programme
SMART GROWTH OPERATIONAL PROGRAMME
Project delivery period
1 October 2016 - 28 February 2020
Meet our team
View the results of our work
What problem is addressed by the project?
The co-founders of the project are Wojciech Wieczorek and Maciej Roth. As mountaineering enthusiasts, we are aware of the needs expressed by people who love mountains in the winter, ourselves included. Each avalanche incident generates a very dangerous situation, and the outcomes may be tragic. We know that because we experienced such situation several years ago - one of us owes his life only to luck and an efficient rescue operation of the partners. We soon came to a conviction that luck and experience in mountaineering require support, not only by mitigating risk but also by providing appropriate equipment for the worst-case scenario.
During our skiing trips and winter hiking trips, we came to a conclusion that although personal protective systems currently available on the market, avalanche airbags to be precise, significantly increase chances for survival, they are not ergonomic and require special backpacks, taking up a substantial part of the available space. They also make it hard to move around freely and take action in case of a hazardous situation, e.g. during a rescue operation.
Our company, AEROSIZE Sp. z o.o. was established to solve these problems. The objective of the project, implemented with support from the NCBR, financed from the Smart Growth Operational Programme, is to develop a new avalanche airbag system which is user-friendly, and has a compact and hybrid structure.
Avalanche airbags have been manufactured by tycoons of the winter mountain gear market for years. The structure designed by AEROSIZE Sp. z o.o. is characterised by innovative solutions: an airbag with a pneumatic support frame which, after being inflated with gas from cartridges, provides for a possibility for the remaining part of the airbag to inflate “itself” with ambient air. The result is an avalanche airbag with a reduced number of additional components and smaller gas cartridges, which contributes to a significant reduction in the size of the entire system. This provides for the first time an opportunity to place a complete avalanche airbag system not only in a dedicated backpack, but also in a separate special small-size rescue vest - harness. It is similar to those used in sailing. The trials and tests showed that such solution is more universal in the mountains, and provides greater freedom, while also allowing to wear any mountain or specialist backpacks together with the vest. It was appreciated by people staying in and travelling through avalanche areas, i.a., by ski touring enthusiasts or mountain rescue services.
Who uses the project results?
Our airbags are dedicated to amateurs and professionals i.e. tourists, skiers, athletes, mountain rescue team members or other people working in avalanche hazard areas, as well as military forces stationed in the mountains. We have already attracted interest of potential clients all over the world, from Alpine countries, through the USA, to South Korea and Japan.
Already at the research, and material and technological test stages, our company showcased the solution being developed and subsequent prototypes, i.a. during major international fair in Munich, where the design of our hybrid avalanche airbags was considered to be one of the most interesting novel solutions presented by exhibitors related to mountain sports.
What was the greatest challenge during project implementation?
Successful cooperation with NCBR as part of ongoing project management and settlement helped us focus on issues which were strictly related to the design. As regards technological issues, some of the greatest challenges during project delivery included the need to obtain the parameters of our hybrid structure solution which are equivalent to those applicable to traditional avalanche airbags. Placing our compact system in a separate vest often required conciliation of extremely different requirements for individual elements. Seemingly minor changes in one solution significantly affected the others, and resulted in the need to substantially modify components which were theoretically finished. It has taught us humility in reaching our goals and flexibility in selecting subsequent individual solutions.
As regards the organisational part, the most important thing was efficient management along the research - practical application line, which involved coordinating efforts and exchanging experience between the design and research team and testers working in mountain areas, who assumed the role of prospective users.
Our advice for other applicants
The best solutions are often created thanks to the actual identification of relevant needs and possibilities, based on own experience, and support in the form of cooperation with, and knowledge of, specialists representing seemingly distant fields of science. Notwithstanding the difficulties encountered during refining detailed solutions, it is often the case that the simplest, though alternative, solutions might turn out to be a break-through, thanks to perseverance in overcoming obstacles, for which others previously chose more standard solutions. Independent and proper recognition of the project potential has helped us convince ourselves to implement it and later to effective acquire funding for its delivery - including funding as part of programmes being implemented by NCBR.