Photo: Courtesy Photo
The military is always looking for the latest in experimental technology, and the Air Force went to the University Research community to try to solve one of the biggest problems out there: How can a team of soldiers scale a high wall without the use of a grappling hook?In comes the Utah State University “Ascending Aggies” team. They’ve cracked the solution to vertical wall-scaling with some innovative tech.
The coolest part is, their solution works on any surface be it glass, rock, or stucco.
Led by Dr. Steve Hansen, the team of 15 mechanical and aerospace engineers developed a device which allows a user to scale a 90 ft wall without any ropes.
The Air Force thought it was so cool, they gave the Aggies $100,000 to continue development.
Here’s the idea.
The simple part to getting a team of four soldiers to the top of a sheer vertical wall is, of course, soldiers two through four. They use existing technology, vertical ascenders, to winch up the rope that soldier one has already secured.
But naturally, the hard part is always the first man. That problem was outstandingly challenging.
The team developed the Personal Vacuum Assisted Climber (PVAC) to solve that.
The PVAC is comprised of two suction pads, the vacuum pack assemblies, and a support system. The pads are pressed onto a climbing surface and create a seal which facilitates climbing. The vacuum pack assembly generates sufficient suction for the pads to work. The support system assists the climber in supporting their weight, and make climbing easier for the user.
The result is a device which can be easily assembled and disassembled, solves the problem of simple vertical ascent, and has an intuitive and safe climbing method you’ve just go to see.
“The beauty of this solution was that it is relatively surface independent,” Dr. Steve Hansen told Business Insider. The design of the system allows it to function hands free, “allowing a soldier to use a weapon or other device while hanging from the PVAC.”
Check it out in action:
The new grant from the Air Force will go towards additional improvements. According to project leader Dr. Hansen, there are three major areas where improvement is important.
First, which you may already know if you watched the video, the PVAC is somewhat noisy, “This is not a major problem in a daytime urban environment, but is a problem in a nighttime stealth operation,” said Hansen. “In the next version, technology will be used or developed to suppress, reduce, or cancel the noise of the vacuums and the motors.”
Second, the team is going to optimise. Since safety was a dominant concern for this round, the current PVAC may be overpowered and not as efficient as it could be.
Third, the team really wants to minimize the weight, and will by evaluating the current design to do that. So, one big part of the next phase of engineering is slimming the PVAC down.
Still, Utah State has been immensely proud of their team and the “truly unique solution” to the challenge. The Air Force selected Utah’s submission over 33 other entries into the contest.
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