Each year, around 1.2 million people die because of road crashes, and millions more suffer debilitating injuries or disabilities. According to the Economic Times, about 27% of road deaths in India are amongst users of scooters and motorcycles.
The publication reported that a team from IIT Roorkee had developed an inflatable safety-helmet for motorcyclists.
The concept is inspired by the inflatable space structures, which, due to their low cost, are suited for many space applications. The inflatable structure can be folded to fit into a small launch vehicle’s shroud, to be deployed in space by a small amount of inflation gas.
According to Sarang Nagwanshi, the idea struck them while working on inflatable space antenna, at ISRO, during their internship.
This is the first time a project like this is being developed in India. With little help from outside, Sarang speaks of the steep learning curve that eventually gave them good results.
So, how does the helmet work?
Worn around the neck and remaining folded like a collar, the device is equipped with sensors that will measure parameters like acceleration, lean angle and velocity. On detecting an impact, the helmet inflates, forming a cushion around the cranium. This cushion is more effective in reducing impact and peak acceleration, which is transferred to the head during accidents.
The team conducted impact tests, which showed that the inflatable safety helmets are capable of reduction in peak acceleration after the impact the collision creates. The dummy head experienced a force that was four times below the force experienced in case of a conventional helmet. The inflatable airbag helmet reduces the head injury.
Traditional helmets do not offer sufficient protection for injury prevention, and hinder rider agility, and reduce rider responsiveness. These helmets also can’t reduce peak acceleration, as claimed by the team in a press statement.
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The team has conceptualised and tested the helmet for effectiveness and feasibility, with positive results. Prof Sanjay Upadhyay, who is guiding the IIT-Roorkee Team feels that efforts from the team, as well as support from the industry, is needed for mass production of this helmet.
Well, if this helmet manages to make a dent in the two-wheeler casualties in India, it will be a great solution to our road-safety problem.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)