An Automatic Activation Device or “AAD” is a mechanical device that is designed to deploy a reserve parachute in the event that a jumper is unable to or does not deploy a parachute for themselves. 

How does an Automatic Activation Device work?

An AAD is a small microprocessor that monitors a jumper’s speed and altitude during a skydive. It does this by measuring changes in barometric pressure. If a jumper is still traveling at freefall speeds when they reach the minimum deployment altitude for safety, the device is designed to automatically deploy the reserve parachute. A small pyrotechnic charge triggers a cutter, which severs the closing loop that keeps the reserve parachute contained. 

The video below is a 3D rendering providing a simplified visual of how an Automatic Activation Device integrates into the reserve container system and an in-depth look at the Cutter in action when the CYPRES AAD activates.

Who manufactures AADs?

There are only 3 manufacturers of this ingenious, life-saving technology: Vigil, Cypres and M2. Skydive Midwest uses Vigil AADs in all of our tandem and student skydiving equipment.

Why would you need an Automatic Activation Device?

An AAD is intended only as a back-up safety device. Jumpers should never rely on an AAD and are ultimately responsible for their own safety and for deploying for themselves. However, jumpers are human and mistakes and accidents can happen. Having an AAD gives jumpers a little extra peace of mind when they skydive.

The most common scenarios that might warrant the activation of an AAD are:

  1. A medical issue causing unconsciousness or loss of altitude awareness.
  2. A freefall collision between jumpers causing unconsciousness or injury.
  3. Loss of altitude awareness. This is most common among students, inexperienced jumpers or jumpers dealing with an equipment malfunction.
  4. Inability to find or reach deployment handles This could be caused by inexperience, shoulder dislocation/injury, or equipment problem. 

Do Automatic Activation Devices actually work?

Yes, AADs have saved lives! As a matter of fact, Vigil and Cypres publish specific instances of “saves” on their social media accounts and webpages. 

A recent example published by Vigil: “After an uneventful group skydive, one of the jumpers could not reach their handle to deploy. They reported that their sweatshirt was covering their handles. Neither the main nor reserve was deployed. Their Vigil activated as designed, saving their life.” 

You can check out Vigil’s full list of documented “saves” at Vigil.aero.com. Cypres reports their devices have saved more than 5200 lives since 1991. To read about Cypres “saves” visit Cypres.aero.com. 

The video below is a demonstration of the cutter activation on an AAD.

Are Automatic Activation Devices Required?

AADs are required by the United States Parachute Association and the Federal Aviation Administration for all tandem skydiving. While the governing agencies do not yet require AAD for non-tandem skydives, Skydive Midwest DOES.

Why does Skydive Midwest require Automatic Activation Devices?

All jumpers participating in freefall skydiving at Skydive Midwest MUST have an AAD installed in their parachute container systems. Skydive Midwest adamantly believes in prioritizing safety above all else. AADs inarguably make skydiving safer and we care about the people who skydive with us. Purchasing an AAD is an investment that could potentially save a life and we believe there is no good excuse for not using one on freefall skydives. 

How often are AAD’s activated?

The activation of an AAD happens only in the rarest of emergency situations. The vast majority of skydivers jump their entire lives without ever needing their AADs to deploy for them. However, it’s always better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it.  

Tandem skydiver giving a thumbs up and smiling


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