ATLAS Powered Rope Ascender Gen 3

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.

26 thoughts on “ATLAS Powered Rope Ascender Gen 3

  1. chaos: this wouldn’t help you cheat at tug of war unless you had it attached to a fixed point (tree, etc) holding it in your hands and trying to use it would still require you personally to withstand the force provided by the opposing team. nevermind that someone holding what looks like a chainsaw minus the blade attached to the rope would be rather conspicuous.

    remember kids, cheating is evil ™

  2. @4 I doubt a h202/plat cat steam motor would work for many reasons. First it’d be far too bulky, second you’d have *hot* steam pouring out from the exhaust somewhere (not a good idea when the thing is right up against your chest/face), third most small steam engines achieve very little torque and have to be driven at high RPM. electric motors are far better suited: high torque at low RPM, efficient, silent, instant start and stop, almost zero maintenace

    however the *biggest* problem with a h202 motor would be that this was designed to be used by the military in the field. which do you think is more feasible to obtain, store, and transport in the field: high concentration hydrogen peroxide (mmmmmm corrosive, energetic oxidizer, decomposes), or batteries/a power source?

    pretty obvious to me

  3. There has always been the possibility of doing this yourself with a winch and battery supply. Of course, it would be slower, and much less extensible than this… it certainly is handy to have the rope feed /through/ the device.

    I wonder how small of rope the device can work with? The depicted rope is pretty ginormous as far as climbing ropes go. I would think that micro-rapelling rope (5mm) would be more ideal. (although I’ve never tried swinging a grappling hook with it, which is obviously the other half of tactically deploying a climbing rope).

    I have a feeling this will become standard issue sniper equipment.

  4. First off i thought this looked really useful from a military POV,but then there are a lot of points not really covered on the website.Such as cycle rate ,noise level,total weight.
    Plus by the time you fix the rope and start relays to bring your team up could they not have got there quicker with there own grapple and rope?

  5. The name is worm gear ;) Those are good at handling Torque but are very slow. so you would have to find a good balance :) Keep in mind though, if either gear breaks the rider will take a fall, So make sure the gears are strong and there is a safety latch to hold the gear.

  6. @ 12 while i’m not trying to be rude or anything as it seems lots of people like to do on teh internets the gear in the picture you are referring to is typically called a worm gear. A worm gear allows you to get a very large speed decrease, and a large torque increase without the bulk and weight involved with convention gears. It most likely uses pinch rollers and a releasable dog in the case of a slip or other failure

  7. I just made up the term “snail gear” because I didn’t know the proper one (English second language, its snail gear in Polish) so no problem.

    pinch rollers? made from rubber? wouldn’t that be too weak for 600 pounds?

    Like I said you can see ‘worm gear’ with rope in it in the first video
    but i highly doubt that’s the only thing pulling it

    ps: and what is a releasable dog? :)

  8. “and if you look at these two pages, you can see that it is simply a guide to keep the rope on a shaft. The shaft spins and you “roll” up the rope”

    That is so brilliant.

    They shoudl actually use pinch rollers, though, or something similar, to feed out the rope. In the videos it seems that the user has to manually take up slack from the device.

  9. Not so much a worm gear as a worm guide as the spiral part does not move. It is really just a winch with the spiral guide allowing the rope to feed in on one side and off on the other.

  10. Mythbusters just had a show on last night where they actually made one of these, it’s their superhero episode where they were trying to make a grappling hook like batman’s. Jamie made the winch part and it worked pretty well, it was really simple and he made it in like a day, it shouldn’t be too hard to at least replicate his.

  11. Did anyone else see the the recent mythbusters episode where they built similar device? Their’s actually seamed more practical (it was quite a bit smaller), even if it was slower.

  12. @mythbusters et al.
    yes their device was smaller but a couple of questions/problems
    1. Battery life and size, is it really smaller if we figure battery life and move the power from the belt to the device
    2. How much bigger will it be with a reverse and/or braking system?
    3. You are limited by the amount of line that will wrap around the spool, by letting the rope play through the device you are only limited by battery life not battery life and spool capacity.

  13. Mythbusters made a smaller more practical one in a day. Of course those guys have more than 30 years experiance in the F/X field. I wonder why they are not working for the army? We would be unstoppable with Jamie and Adam making stuff for the soldiers.

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