Published: September 14, 2018
Skydiving, the concept of jumping out of a plane and hurtling towards the ground at over 220kph, the ultimate rush, the ultimate freedom. When people find out I'm a skydiver, they often ask "don't you get scared? Aren't you worried about going "splat?"". My truthful answer; "no". The reason I have such piece of mind is the incredible range of safety technology included in every skydiving rig.
Let me introduce you to the AAD; automatic activation device. This is a small computer device that is installed into every skydiving rig. Effectively it deploys a reserve parachute in a scenario when the instructor may not be able to, practically guaranteeing a parachute above our heads.
An ADD tracks a skydiver's altitude and descent rate by measuring barometric pressure. If the device identifies that a height threshold has been passed while the skydiver is falling above a certain speed, it then deploys the reserve parachute automatically.
The AAD is designed to save lives in a scenario where the instructor may not be able to deploy a parachute, for example if they have a medical episode during the jump, or if they are in a scenario that renders them unconscious.
The AAD has also been known to save lives of solo skydivers who lose height awareness on their jumps. This is a critical error; height awareness is arguably the most important thing taught in our solo skydiving course. The video linked below shows two skydivers, distracted by each other, who both have an AAD save their lives.
There are a number of manufacturers of AADs, the biggest two are Cypres and Vigil.
Cypres is a German company, (cypres.aero), CYPRES stands for CYbernetic Parachute RElease System. Cypres have been manufacturing and developing this technology for 27 years, with over 198,000 devices through production, 123,000,000 jumps completed with a Cypres and over 4,000 lives saved.
The second biggest manufacturer is Vigil, based in Belgium since 1997. Effectively almost an identical device to Cypres, the Vigil boasts a slightly longer life with more user friendly servicing protocols, however Cypres have recently moved to a similar protocol.
Automatic Activation Devices are just one of the fantastic safety features included in every skydiving rig. They bust the myth that skydivers will go "splat" if their parachute fails, a scenario that is almost impossible.
While AADs are not mandatory everywhere in the world, here at SA Skydiving they are a requirement. An amazing piece of technology that does save lives.
Words by Matt Teager