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Avalanche Blast - Abstract

The Airborne "Avalanche Blast" Device
A New Approach for Helicopter-based avalanche Control

Jim Frankenfield, M.Sc. - Engineer, Physicist

Werner Greipl, Dipl. Ing. - Engineer, Pilot
Schliersee, Germany

Marcos and Gabriel Kostner - Pilots
Elikos Srl,
Val Gardena, Laion, Italy

The AVALANCHE BLAST eliminates the need to carry explosives inside the cabin and reduces or eliminates the difficult processes required for the possession and use of explosive charges. It uses gases which are cheap and readily available, and these are transported as an external load which is separated from the helicopter by a significant distance. There are also no concerns over unexploded charges remaining on the ground.
This new and innovative device is attached to the load hook of a helicopter using a 30-45 m long line. As the pilot is flying the helicopter, a second person in the cabin controls the machine via a radio remote control. The machine carries a magazine of balloons which will be filled during flight with a gas mixture. The filled balloons hang below the blaster and are flown close to the snow surface for firing. During firing the balloon stays attached to the blaster. After firing the magazine positions the next balloon in order to perform the next shot. Each magazine supports 11 blasts.

The control unit in the cabin shows the actual status of the equipment at any time. Many safety valves, safety devices, and interlocks guarantee safe high performance without operational restriction. A video system continuously monitors the balloon area and enables the person in the cockpit to monitor the filling and firing activities at any time.

This device was invented three years ago by engineer Werner Greipl of Germany. An initial prototype suffered from insufficient strength in the materials and construction. A second-generation device was then designed and built. This device was successfully tested on actual avalanche control flights during the winter of 2003-2004 by Elikos in the Dolomite region of Italy. After approximately 500 blasts throughout the avalanche control season this model still functioned with no problems. However, some minor changes are being made to improve the long-term durability and the ease of use, and a third-generation device will be tested in the Dolomites again during the 2004-2005 season.

We expect to be able to make the device available for purchase and delivery prior to the fall of 2005. Photos, a digital video clip of the device in use, additional specifications, and the history of the development and testing are available on request from AlpenPro.

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