Pole Climbing Device Runs Up Flags and Undies

Tubular Drive travels up and down poles

Driving a carriage up and down a cylindrical object isn’t the most popular activity but that is certainly no reason not to build such a device. Check out [Ryan's] creation that does just that, he calls it a Tubular Drive.

There isn’t much going on here, basically there are 4 wheels that grip a pipe. Two of those wheels have integrated gears and are driven by a DC motor. The remaining two wheels are idlers. When power is applied to the motor, two of the wheels spin, which then moves the entire assembly down the pole. A quick reversal in polarity brings the unit back the other way.

With those 3D printed plastic wheels you may think that traction would be an issue but [Ryan] insists that it is not a problem. The ABS wheels were treated with an acetone bath to smooth out the print layers and the distance between the wheels can be adjusted using a couple of bolts. Together that allows enough surface contact and pressure to ensure slip-free traveling.

Although the wheels were made to grip 1/2″ electrical conduit, it would be very easy to adapt this design to fit around and climb up all sorts of cylindrical objects, maybe even rope! Perhaps v-wheels with a spring tensioner system would allow for traveling on different size tubes while also adjusting for any variation in the diameter of a single tube.

[Ryan] says version two will have a linear encoder and be driven by a stepper motor. Check out the video after the break…


  1. Waterjet says:

    This sounds like it would work well if you ran it horizontally instead of vertically?

    • Waterjet says:

      The video shows it going horizontally only. Is this designed to actually “climb” a vertical pole or shuffle along a horizontal tube?

    • furiousd says:

      Yeah, this looks like a clone of the systems I’ve seen installed in crane machines. Useful still, but based on the article’s title vs. what is shown and the style compared to what I’ve seen, without modification I doubt it would ‘climb’ anything

  2. ANC says:

    Flagpoles aren’t usually cylindrical, they’re tapered. I think this device is more for running a camera around or a large xy table.

    • Sven says:

      I was just thinking of how to make one that could climb any size (within reason) pole, i came up with a spring loaded construction with 3 wheels. The wheels would be offset so 2 are on one side and one is on the other side between them, The middle wheel is the drive wheel and all 3 wheels are V-grooved instead of U-grooved as in the article. This should be able to climb anything that fits the groove. The middle wheel may need to be made from some grippy rubber material.

      • fartface says:

        That is how most pole climbing bots work. most do not even bother with the groove just use a sticky tire.

        • Sven says:

          Without the groove they would need more tires to stay on the pole, you may also need a more intricate mechanism to make them grip everything from a 10mm wire to a 200mm pole, a construction with 3 wide grooved wheels would only need one hinge and a spring to stay on.

          I guess it all depends on what you design for.

  3. macona says:

    This is pretty much identical to a wire feeder for a MIG welder. so do what they do and use a spring mechanism to keep tension on the rod going through.

  4. grokswell says:

    Pretty sure it’s for mobile surveillance cameras, traveling along sewer pipes, just in case anyone gets close to the lair.

  5. Yup, build one to pull my wire inside the pipe, NOW you’ve got my attention!

  6. Bogdan says:
  7. carbohydrates says:


  8. Smorges Borges says:

    This is just a few short steps away from a pole dancing stripper bot!

    Add an inflatable doll, a few servos, and of course, an Arduino, and you are *there*.
    Is it too late to enter the contest?

  9. BillBrasskey says:

    It’s just working its way through college ;)
    Couldn’t resist.

  10. Raven Corax says:

    simpler easier and auto adjusts for taper


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