A new prototype wristband is designed for people who go boating, as it features floatation airbags that can be manually deployed if needed. The T-1 has two inflators, one on each side of its face, that are shaped to follow the band’s curve. A polymer airbag is folded on top of each inflator and sits beneath a protective external cover.
Pushing a button on the T-1 electrically ignites a solid propane substance in the inflators, creating gas quickly enough to fill the airbags. They pop off the cover as they expand, allowing them to float on the surface while remaining linked to the band. It’s the same principle that vehicle airbags use, but it’s designed to happen far faster—in seconds rather than milliseconds.
When the airbags are deployed, they offer a buoyancy of 10 kg (22 lb), which is comparable to most PFDs (personal floatation devices). The user can then fold their arm in and tuck one bag under each armpit before floating or swimming on their back. They can also swim on their front, with their T-1-equipped arm extended in front as if they were swimming while holding onto a flutter board.
Steven R. Tsitas, who has a Masters in Astronautics and Space Engineering from Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, created the T-1 gadget. He got caught in a riptide while swimming off a remote beach in Baja California, Mexico, and that experience gave him the idea for the invention.
“Our device is designed as an emergency backup in case you find yourself in distress in the water without a lifejacket,” Steven R. Tsitas says. “It’s like a reserve parachute.” As they say, “The best life jacket is the one you’re wearing when you need one.”