Power climbers are getting lighter and stronger

Since MIT spinout Atlas Devices’ flagship product, the Atlas Powered Rope Ascender (APA), first hit the market in 2007, it’s been touted by media as a real-world version of Batman’s famed utility-belt grappling gun: At the pull of a trigger, the handheld device can hoist two people about 30 stories up a rope in 30 seconds.

The latest version, released in 2010, dubbed the APA-5 — developed with funding from the Office of Naval Research’s Tech Solutions Program — weighs roughly 20 pounds and can lift up to 600 pounds at speeds of up to several feet per second.

Originally, for instance, when power ascension was more novel, users requested an ascension pace of 10 feet per second. But Atlas found that as soon as you maneuver over, say, more dangerous terrain or over edge of a wall, going that fast could mean crashes and injuries. So for some customers that operate in dangerous terrain, they compensated with slower speeds, but a higher lifting capacity — which was, in fact, beneficial, Ball says. The device can also now be submerged in water for maritime use.

Innovation also occurs at the material level, Ball says. For example, Atlas recently made the switch to more advanced ropes that have higher tensile strength, with smaller diameters. “To carry a 200-foot section of rope was up to 15 pounds; now it’s closer to 8 pounds,” Ball says. “We’re always trying to find better ways to accomplish things.”

Atlas Device’s APA-5 weighs roughly 20 pounds and can lift upwards of 600 pounds, up a rope, at speeds of several feet per second. PHOTO COURTESY OF ATLAS DEVICES

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