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29 June 2012

Suck It And See!!

Being of military background myself (3 years as a pilot in Her Majesty's Royal Air Force) I am always interested in new inventions that will make anybody who defends their Country's life easier and safer.

Grappling hooks have been conventionally used to help you scale a vertical obstacle, however U.S. Special Forces are looking for something a little different. "These teams are often required to carry hundreds of pounds of gear, making traditional climbing methods strenuous and dangerous," stated Lt. Col. David Shahady of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

In August 2011, 17 universities and three military academies were each given $20,000 and set the challenge of creating a "superior vertical ascender" in the Air Force Research Laboratory's annual challenge. After nearly nine months of hidden, secretive work behind closed doors, the teams came together this spring to have their inventions put through their paces. The aim was simple: "get four special operations personnel over a 90 foot vertical concrete face with innovative climbing equipment." The winner was Utah State University and its suction solution, behold, "The Personnel Vacuum Assisted Climber!", or PVAC in military lingo.

The contraption is made from hand pads that literally stick you to the wall using battery powered suction. The PVAC can hold a soldier weighing up to 200 pounds complete with 100 pounds of kit vertically or even horizontally on a wall or rock face.

Twin electric motors worn as part of the kit produce 3.5 pounds per square inch of sucking power, "eat your  heart out Dyson!" Footrests attached to the pads with cables support the soldier's weight while her or she releases and moves the pads, one at a time to scale the obstacle. The rechargeable batteries keep the motors spinning for up to half an hour - sufficient time to scale even the most treacherous of walls.

Weighing in at around 45 pounds, the system is a little on the heavy side however it more than compensates with sucking power.


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