How to find equipment after you cut it away to save your life?
Cutaway is a skydiving term referring to disconnecting the main parachute from the harness-container in case of a malfunction in preparation for opening the reserve parachute. The 3-ring release system on parachutes allows a rapid cut-away in the event of an emergency.
Cutaway can be stressful, or easy by the book. It can even be fun for people, who make jokes they have “A license” judged on cutaways number. But one thing for everybody remains the same: you have to find the main canopy and a freebag. Some dropzones are more helpful, when it comes to finding them, others are more “you’re on your own.”
The traditional solution is just to follow your canopy as much as safely possible, and have others on your jump do the same. So you can do the same for others if they have a cutaway.
When you pinpoint your location you start walking in the are, looking for your equipment. Sometimes it takes an hour, if location is correct. Sometimes, if a dropzone is in a woody area, skydivers walk for hour or days, looking for it.
There are some attempts on various tracking solutions, mainly ones that could theoretically be built, or adapted to skydiving, with few that have been built. There just aren’t turnkey solutions being regularly marketed to skydivers. There are various challenges for price or range depending on the design, whether using radio location or GPS & cell service based.
If we have current windaloft data, why not store it for later. So we could use it to calculate the location of main canopy.
There is no aerodynamics involved – main canopy after cutaway is not a wing, but just a piece of fabric. It sinks, and drifts with wind. Winds have different speeds and directions for different levels, but we have the data available.
Skydive City in Z-Hills is extremely lucky, since they have Robert White Canopy Retrieval Services. He knows exactly how to use the data, and kindly described it in this video
We used his advice in a new Spot Assist feature: now “Cutaway Finder” is available around the world. You choose the cutaway location, altitude and date – Spot Assist Cutaway Finder plots main canopy drift on the map, pinpointing landing location.
Happy jumping and Blue Skies