This last weekend we got a chance to check out ATLAS Devices‘ latest version of their powered rope ascender. You probably saw their first generation device in the news earlier in the year. It was originally built for a design competition, but they’re now on generation 3. The earliest version used a capstan style winder, but newer versions have a far more simple/elegant design. The original had a ton of thrust and needle bearings that were hard to keep in adjustment. The new design is lighter, less abrasive to the rope, and easier to use.
Rigging the device is fairly straight forward; you could probably figure it out without any instruction. We attached a standard climbing harness to the device for our ascent. An additional rappelling rope was used as a backup.
It’s a simple device to use. You just flip the large toggle switch to “on”, pull the small trigger and off you go. The original unit moved at 10ft/s, but it was almost too jarring. The newer unit has a much higher load capacity. To descend you squeeze the large metal brake release handle. This causes you to drop fairly slowly since the electric brake is still engaged. The solution is to turn off the machine and regulate the descent with the handbrake.
Right now they’re in the middle of doing a short production run that will be evaluated by the military. In service, a squad would have one person climb the obstacle. The next person would use the ascender and then just keep the ascender at the top to pull up the rest of the troops… I’m guessing they won’t be using it to peep second story windows like us (no, not really). While the method of rope engagement is pretty much finalized, the team is constantly trying to improve the motor and battery efficiency.
We’d like to thank Nate Ball and the rest of the ATLAS Devices team. Your next chance to see the ascender in person will be Wired’s NextFest Sept. 13-16th in LA.