The AirShuttle has been the key to introducing AirBadminton, since the BWF started developing a shuttlecock with increased resistance to wind that is the biggest challenge to badminton outdoors. The new artificial AirShuttle comes in bright colours and reminds of the carnivorous plant Drosera, while it’s designed with steeple arches to reduce resistance and something straight out of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s design-book.
Here’s some more on the specs of the outdoor game:
How did AirShuttle come into being?
Five years ago, BWF started working on developing a new outdoor shuttlecock with increased resistance to wind. Using the same rackets and having good flight performance, spin response and durability were the chief considerations. In 2014, Institute for Sports Research (ISR) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore started on the project to design parameters. Later that year, prototype shuttlecocks went up for testing. The AirShuttle was designed to mimic the trajectory, acoustics and feel of the traditional indoor shuttle. It has minimal impact from side and axial wind and limited influence from humidity variations. Over 30 prototypes were developed and a preferred design was then tested in independent studies by the University of Alicante and Universiti of Malaya as part of the pilot programme.
What are the shuttles made of?
The AirShuttle is produced using an injection mould process. The final materials of the AirShuttle will be released once a manufacturer is firmed up, but the prototypes are made of polypropylene and nylon. The eventual aim is for the shuttlecock to be played in winds up to 12km per hour.
What were the main challenges?
Badminton has been attempting to develop an indoor synthetic shuttle to replace the feathers for 50-60 years now. But the aerodynamics involved in achieving balance means the process has been at times, two steps forward, three steps back, according to BWF development director Ian Wright. “Just one hole in the skirt and the design can go haywire, and instead of rotating clockwise, it can start rotating anti-clockwise. Increasing the rotations is the key to keep shuttle flight consistent,” he adds.
What’s the main difference between traditional badminton and this?
The shuttlecock design and the dimensions of the court. The AirBadminton court has a two-metre dead zone at the front of the court. Should the AirShuttle land in that area, it is given a fault. Points cannot be scored off the net area because control of the shuttle up front is very difficult with the new bright-bird. However, the game still looks the same with variety in strokes like smash, clear, lobs and is still tactical. However it risks being predictable as the only aim is to send the shuttle higher. The artistry and drama at the net – a mesmerising feature of indoor badminton – is out of the picture.
What is the Triples format?
Triples is a new introduction. It is played by teams of three, each containing a minimum of one female player. Players are not allowed to hit two consecutive returns. This rule creates more movement and increases the strategic element of the game, according to BWF. Players serve from behind a three-metre marker clearly visible on the side line with both feet stationary. The shuttle ought to be below net height at the point of impact, which means its flight is always upwards from the server’s racket.