GoPro: Realization of a Snag Hazard

When it comes to skydivers wanting to slap a small format camera (GoPro) onto their body there are two statements that I hear far too often, either of which could have resulted in this incident being an injury or fatality.

But it will just break off
I’ll just forget it’s there

Do you jump a GoPro? Have you ever said one of these lines? I invite you to pause for a moment and watch this video.

This is an excellent learning aid on many fronts. I want to highlight and reinforce what this video can teach us about two very important realities of small format cameras in skydiving. (these are not the only lessons to learn from this video, just two that I want to point out)

1) The GoPro mount did not break.

Let that sink in for a minute.

A riser slap, door jam strike, collision with another jumper… all of these most likely will and have sheared GoPros right the f’ off people. There are two types of potential GoPro snags that scare me; a snag on the lower mount that has the adhesive, and any slow speed lower drag snag. What if it is my bridle? What if it is my reserve bridle? What if I am in a canopy collision and it is the other persons lines or canopy?
GoPro mounts come with a strip of 3M VHB 4991 adhesive. Ever wonder how strong that “Very High Bond” (VHB) adhesive is?

  • 60 pounds per square inch tensile strength (pulling straight up)
  • 65 pounds per square inch shear strength (pulling sideways along surface)

That might not sound like a lot, but it is very likely that a horseshoe malfunction could snag and be pulling with far less force than 65 pounds per square inch as we saw in the above video.

2) The AFF-I could not clear the snag from her GoPro and resorted to pulling her chincup cutaway handle to release her helmet.

This is such an important point. I can not stress this enough. If she had not had a cutaway system on her helmet how do you think this could have ended? If that main canopy had deployed while that helmet was still on her head with the bridle snagged it could have resulted in a fatality.

If you just forget about that camera than you are neither equipped nor prepared to execute emergency procedures that can (will) change when you put on a camera.

In skydiving we weigh risk vs. reward in every aspect of our sport. We try to mitigate as much risk as possible. Once we have accepted the level of risk we are taking we then try to give ourselves the best possible fighting chance of surviving for when the unforeseen happens.

In closing… Don’t count on those mounts to break. Give yourself a fighting chance. If you are going to fly a camera, do so with a camera helmet equipped with a cutaway system and practice your new emergency procedures!

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