Parachute Deployment For Unconscious People: Your Friend, The AAD

The Function, Options and Risks of AADs

Image © Brett Kistler
Sometimes, your main canopy isn't going to do its lifesaving job. Occasionally, the situation will call for an AAD. Image © Brett Kistler

So you're doin' a simple little skydive and your idiot buddy knocks you out cold.


How ya gonna pull?


Hope you turned on your AAD.

The AAD is the reason you can smirk when whuffos make the "you're so crazy" face at parties -- so it's already the most important part of your kit, y'know? Quite simply, the term “AAD” stands for “automatic activation device.” According to the USPA Skydiver Information Manual, an AAD is “a self-contained mechanical or electro-mechanical device that is attached to the interior of the reserve parachute container, which automatically initiates parachute deployment of the reserve parachute at a pre-set altitude, time, percentage of terminal velocity, or combination thereof.”

The little device, the size of a quarter pack of chewing gum and connected to different parts of your rig via two cables, is designed to deploy your reserve parachute in the event that you aren’t able to do it yourself. AADs operate on similar principles: here’s one manufacturer’s description of how the device works.

The majority of skydivers believe an AAD to be a vital component in one’s skydiving rig. By February of 2013, more than 3,000 skydivers’ lives had been saved by an AAD. (Here’s a scary skydiving video that beautifully demonstrates an AAD save.)

What’s Available

Though several manufacturers make AADs, most skydivers choose one manufactured by either Cypres or Vigil. The top-of-market positioning enjoyed by both companies is due to an excellent record of reliability. While different instructors and riggers may have differing preferences, either should be considered “safe.”

The Vigil II 

  • Cost: about $1400.00 USD
  • Lifetime: 20 years
  • Regularly Scheduled Maintenance: Not Required
  • Battery Life: 10 years
  • Standard Features: The Vigil II is equipped with a “logbook” that keeps track of the total number of jumps, overall freefall time, last freefall time, maximum speed of the jumper’s last freefall, the number of saves on the device, the atmospheric pressure and the temperature

The Cypres II 

Research the other, lesser-known options for comparison:

  • The Astra (a rare and somewhat oddball device, designed to be mounted externally)
  • The MPAAD (extremely uncommon in the US)

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Your Citation
O'Neil, Annette. "Parachute Deployment For Unconscious People: Your Friend, The AAD." ThoughtCo, Jan. 18, 2016, O'Neil, Annette. (2016, January 18). Parachute Deployment For Unconscious People: Your Friend, The AAD. Retrieved from O'Neil, Annette. "Parachute Deployment For Unconscious People: Your Friend, The AAD." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 18, 2017).