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Atlas Devices and Draper Laboratory Z-Man Climbing Technologies Demonstrated at DARPA D60 in Washington, DC

Last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) held a symposium in celebration of their 60th anniversary in Washington, DC. The symposium—naturally called `D60’—included exhibits from each of DARPA’s six research offices, as well as several speakers and 30 themed breakout sessions over a period of three days. The event highlighted past and present DARPA funded research and technologies ranging from aerial reconnaissance to cybersecurity with everything in between.

Atlas Devices is honored to have been invited to exhibit at D60 in the Gaylord National Harbor Convention Center. Our world-famous “Tower of Power” triple-tier stack of steel shipping containers was setup in the Defense Sciences Office (DSO) section of the exhibit hall floor. Partnered with our friends from Draper Laboratory, we projected the spirit of the DARPA Z-Man program via interactive climbing demonstrations.

The Tower of Power, most recently showcased at SOFIC back in May, was outfitted with customized steel and polycarbonate sheets to allow climbers to utilize both the Atlas Pirate Paddles magnetic climbing system, as well as the Draper Hybrid Climbing system. The Draper Hybrid system utilizes mechanically-evacuated suction cups coupled with a synthetic grip material inspired by the feet of a Gecko to stick to smooth surfaces. The Atlas Pirate Paddles use powerful magnets to adhere to ferromagnetic surfaces for both climbing and anchoring. The Pirate Paddles were initially developed by Draper but were handed off to Atlas as the transition partner for the final stages of development.

The DARPA Z-Man program was initiated with the vision of developing mechanical climbing systems inspired by nature. Indeed, both systems afford humans the unique opportunity to scale nonstandard climbing surfaces from the ground under their own power. Previously, throughout virtually all of history, it has been incredibly difficult for people to climb smooth and, in some cases, convex surfaces. Even where possible, it would at the very least require heavy tools and equipment to drill holes and establish anchors or “protection” along the way up. Obviously, this method is time consuming, loud, exhaustive, and leaves permanent scars. The climbing systems we demonstrated at D60 are simple, quiet, light, and leave no trace, giving them countless applications in defense, rescue, and industrial access. The Z-Man program has produced products that allow enhanced vessel boarding, tower climbing, and ad hoc anchor setting in areas such as elevator shafts and on water towers. We would like to thank everyone who made this project possible, and those who stopped by the exhibit to share and learn.