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Working at Height? Climb and Work Safer with an APA-5-U Powered Ascender!

Atlas Powered Ascenders are game-changing systems for vertical access and fall protection, allowing fast, safe, simple access for work at height..

By Owen Clarke

Working at height is one of the most hazardous professions in America. Not only do linemen, tower technicians, and other high angle operators need the technical skills to accomplish their specialized repair and maintenance jobs, they need the high angle skills to operate safely hundreds of feet off the ground at the same time.

We get it! We’re a team of engineers and former SOF personnel who have been designing and building high angle gear for the U.S. Military for a decade and a half. And in fact, linemen and military operators have a lot in common, even beyond the many lineworkers who are veterans. Operating in high risk situations while performing technical, skill-intensive work under pressure to complete a no-fail mission brings up the same kinds of challenges. And it requires the same kinds of remarkable people whether they’re wearing multicam or a faraday suit.

Working at height, much less on a live 500 kV barehand maintenance job, requires a special combination of skill and effort.

Since starting to focus on the utility sector five years ago, we’ve been amazed to learn about the lengths line crews and utility companies go to to keep the power on. To tell you the truth, it’s been really surprising in many cases to learn about how expensive, time consuming, cumbersome and labor intensive certain jobs can be. Just the taste we’ve gotten on a few demos – working at height in a faraday suit in 110 degree heat in the middle of Arizona, and literally freezing to a lattice tower at -10 degrees in the middle of Minnesota – has been humbling to say the least.

But also, it’s not entirely unfamiliar territory. In combat search and rescue, operators don’t exactly have the luxury of choosing their environment, the timing, or their ideal manpower either. Much less the ability to rely on gear that can’t be trusted to work exactly where, when, and how they need it to.

We figured – if we can make it work in the field for the military, why can’t we adapt it for line crews too? 

That was the question an innovative fall protection coordinator asked us back in 2015 when OSHA changed to 100% attached climbing on all towers. We took our field-proven technology from the APA-5 ascender, and modified it for use in the unique and challenging utility environment.

The result…

The APA-5-U powered ascender!

As simple as operating a power drill, at the pull of a trigger, you can have a lineworker up a tower in seconds. Instead of getting worn out climbing the step bolts with cumbersome conventional fall protection, linemen can arrive up the tower ready to focus on the job. No cumbersome waist belts and pelican hooks, or expensive, cumbersome bucket trucks and hoists needed. And you don’t even need to build a road or rent ground matting to get the gear out to the tower. 

Safety is critical when working at heights, and with our ascenders, your tower workers remain fully attached to the rope, hanging on it under tension at all times. You can think of it like a moving work positioning attachment. And it’s seamless to always use it with an ANSI-approved safety backup (the Petzl ASAP is our favorite) for completely redundant fall protection.

Atlas Powered Ascenders all feature redundant safety brakes with hands-free, power-off operation. With the easily controllable manual release, you can always come down safe at your own speed, even with no battery and a full rescue load.

There’s no need to “change over” or modify your setup to get into a working position. This keeps procedure 100% OSHA compliant without any bells and whistles. The fully tensile load-rated 22 kN housing makes sure your workers stay safe at all times. Meanwhile, the APA-5’s mechanical descent capability operates even at 0% battery life; you can always safely get down with full control, even with a rescue load.

With Atlas Devices, what goes up ALWAYS comes down safely.

The APA-5-U is the best tool for working at height in remote locales.

The compact, minimalist design of our ascender kits means there’s nowhere you can’t take Atlas gear. Remote backcountry jobs? No need for ground matting or vegetation clearing, just send in a two-man crew on ATVs and get the job done. One crew even took our gear in on mountain bikes! Avoiding the $100K months-long environmental study on that job was icing on the cake. The APA-5-U ascender operates seamlessly with our portable REBS pneumatic launcher to get your lines over towers over 150’ tall, so the entire kit is lightweight and packable, easy to transport in a duffel, backpack, or in the back of a UTV.

Our pneumatic line launchers from REBS make accurate pilot line placement a snap, with a 5×5′ accuracy window at 100′ up.

Working at height on remote tower jobs with exhausted lineworkers and heavy-impact equipment after costly and time-intensive permit processes can be a thing of the past. We’re excited to be bringing the field-proven effectiveness of our combat search & rescue gear to line crews around the country who know how to put it to good use. 

To help make 2021 a little easier than last year, you can now rent Atlas Kits at cost-effective monthly rates to get your high angle jobs done affordably and safely, with minimal effort and manpower required. We want to do our part to make working at height for utilities easier, safer, and more affordable than ever before.

Available Rental Kits Include: 

  • APA-5-U Powered Ascender
  • Equipment-only Ascender / Portable Hoist
  • Pneumatic REBS Rope Launcher (150+ ft reach),
  • High-Pressure Air Compressor (to power the REBS Launcher)

Working at Height? Atlas is here for YOU!

Owen Clarke is a veteran high angle sports journalist and has been climbing for over 14 years. He has summited mountains and rock walls around the world, from Morocco to Peru, and is a columnist for Rock & Ice, The Outdoor Journal, and Gym Climber magazines. He is also an avid motorcyclist.

Owen recently began writing for Atlas Devices, compelled by their mission to go Higher, Faster, Safer.

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Tower Climbing is Now Easy, Affordable, and Fast with Atlas Rental Kits

Complete Your Line Repair Jobs Higher, Faster, and Safer. Atlas Tower Climbing Powered Ascenders Are Available for Monthly Rental

By Owen Clarke

If you’re a utility lineman, you already know the value and also the cost of the work you and your crew do, and you know it goes above and beyond the cost of tower climbing gear itself. You also know that the final sum isn’t cheap.

From the environmental studies and permits needed to gain access, to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that go into portable matting, vegetation management, bucket trucks, potential helicopter support, and more, not to mention the massive time and manpower it takes to accomplish line repair and maintenance projects… tower climbing and working at heights in general is an extremely costly business.

Even on minor jobs, fall arrest hazards are common with standard manual climbing gear like positioning lanyards, and the work is slow going, exhausting, and physically debilitating over time. It’s no wonder the utility industry has such a high turnover rate.

But what if you could replace a broken insulator bell in a no-access location with just a bare bones line crew and 30 lbs of gear brought in on an ATV?

What if it only took a couple of hours? 

What if you could do it all with 100% attached OSHA compliance, no environmental impact studies required, and no ecological footprint, with improved climbing safety, and a 10X reduction in physical exertion?

Well… with Atlas gear, you can.

Atlas Devices APA-5-U powered ascenders make ascending towers a 5 minute job, even for the first man up. Simply launch a pilot line over the structure or span with our pneumatic launcher (range of 150+ vertical ft), haul your climbing and safety ropes over and anchor them to the ground, attach the APA-5-U ascender, and get your first tower climber up in literally seconds. 

Atlas Devices pneumatic launcher safely places ropes over towers for powered ascent, climbing and fall protection
The high powered REBS line launcher places safety lines over towers over 150′ tall

First, let me tell you a bit about me, and why you should trust me on this. I come from a mountaineering and rock climbing background, and have over a decade of experience climbing big walls and mountains around the world. So I know firsthand the importance of lightweight, fast movement in vertical spaces. I’ve dealt with avalanches and rockfall countless times, and once took a 200-foot fall off an Ecuadorian volcano because of faulty gear, so I know firsthand the difficulty of ascending vertical lines manually. It’s part of what I train for every day, as a climber. 

That said, climbers don’t deal with half of the hazards tower technicians deal with every day. I’m not having to do complex technical work on a cell tower or power line after I finish jugging lines to the top. That’s precisely why I joined the Atlas team, because what they’re doing with high angle gear is nothing short of revolutionary. 

Atlas Powered Ascenders make tower climbing as simple as stepping into an elevator.  

The APA-5-U requires no physical exertion. Your workers simply press one button to ascend and another to lower. At variable ascent speeds up to almost three feet per second, you can get a man up a 150-foot tower in a minute. With 700 vertical feet on the standard battery (and 1,400 ft on the high capacity battery), you’ll have juice to get the job done with plenty to spare. Furthermore, Atlas tower climbing gear works with all the same tower safety equipment you’re already using. Simply clip in and press the button, and up you go. 

Atlas Devices' APA-5-U powered ascender enables incredible climbing capabilities with just a squeeze of a trigger, revolutionizing tower climbing, rescue, and fall protection
Atlas’s APA-5-U Utility Ascender is in by many US utilities

In the case of accident or injury on the line, the APA’s 2-person, 600 lb direct lift capacity makes rescue a breeze, even for tiny 2-man teams.

Atlas Devices Kits make your line teams fully self-sufficient and mobile. Say goodbye to cumbersome bucket trucks, expensive helicopters, and multi-member haul teams.

Okay, so it’s fast and easy, but is it SAFE?

Answer: Yes. 

The speed and efficiency of our kit makes no compromises in safety. Safe climbing has never been so easy. With our ascender, your tower workers remain fully attached to the rope at all times, even when transitioning into a work position, so you’ll always stay 100% OSHA compliant.

With safety gear functions such as fully tensile load-rated housing, an ergonomic safety lock, and emergency mechanical descent capability even at 0% battery life, fall protection is built into the APA-5-U from the ground up.

We’ve tested the APA-5-U extensively in high voltage environments including live bonds up to 800 kV line to ground in a lab environment, and live transmission voltages at 345 kV and 500 kV, all with no issue. Many utilities have used APA-5-U easily on live jobs up to 500 kV, from inspection to spacer swaps to bonding line workers onto live conductors.

The APA-5-U also has an operating temperature range from -10°F to over 120°F. You can use Atlas ascenders everywhere from Antarctica to the Arabian Desert.

With our proud history of designing rugged, efficient high-angle gear for the United States military, we know firsthand how to accomplish high-angle work higher, faster and safer in myriad complex, high risk environments. 

You may not even realize how much you’re saving until you try our gear. Atlas powered ascenders have resulted in six-figure savings on the first job for many utilities.

Best of all, Monthly Rental Kits are now available!

You can rent full Atlas Kits at budget-friendly monthly rates to accomplish your tower climbing jobs quickly, cheaply, and easily.

Available Rental Kits Include: 

  • APA-5-U Powered Ascender
  • Equipment-only Ascender / Portable Hoist
  • Pneumatic REBS Rope Launcher (150+ ft reach),
  • High-Pressure Air Compressor (to power the REBS Launcher)

The Future of Tower Climbing Gear is here, and it’s designed for YOU.

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Atlas Devices CEO to Address Emerging ‘Batman’ Climbing Technologies at Incident Prevention Utility Safety Conference and Expo in Orlando, FL

Next week, Nate Ball, the Co-Founder and CEO of Atlas Devices, will be delivering a presentation to the Incident Prevention Utility Safety Conference and Expo at the Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando, FL. Nate Ball, who is an Emmy Award winning TV host, author, and mechanical engineer, will address the role emerging technologies play in the realm of Higher Faster Safer utility access. Joining Nate will be Greg Wildman, Transmission Supervisor at Tucson Electric Power, and Luke Wilson, Journeyman Lineman at Salt River Project. Both Wildman and Wilson have successfully implemented these state of the art technologies into their operations. The presentation will exemplify the unique products born out of relationships between utility and engineering companies. Nate will discuss how Atlas Devices’ history in defense-related rapid access has prepared a product line of transmission, distribution, and rescue capable equipment. Learn how a pneumatic grapnel hook launcher and tactical/airborne portable, dismountable hoist have been customized for first man up, mid-span spacer swaps, hauling, and OSHA 100% attached powered climbing. See how mechanical climbing magnets, previously used exclusively for maritime visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) operations, can be used for climbing up and anchoring onto towers and monopoles for work positioning. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion including attendee Q&A. The address, aptly titled “Batman Joins the Barehand Crew,” will be given at 11:00 AM on Tuesday, November 6th in Boca VII-VIII.

During exhibition hours, make sure to come check out the equipment for yourself! We will be set up in booth 114, with ropes rigged to demonstrate the Atlas Powered Ascender, Utility (APA-5-U). As always, we encourage visitors to get up close and personal with the technology, which is why we will be running live demonstrations between 8:30 AM and 2:00 PM on November 7th and 8th. The REBS Pneumatic Launchers will also be on display alongside the Atlas Pirate Paddles and extremely lightweight and modular REBS Carbon Multi Ladder (CML), among others. Introduce yourself and drop a business card for a chance to win an Atlas custom YETI cooler. We are excited to visit with and learn from members of the utility industry from around the nation. For details on the Astronaut-led Space Center tour sponsored by Atlas Devices, and for other IP Utility Conference information please visit

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Atlas Devices Features Powered Rope Ascender at International Lineman’s Rodeo in Overland Park, Kansas

Last week, we visited the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park, Kansas for this year’s International Lineman’s Rodeo. Since 1984, the Lineman’s Rodeo has drawn linemen from utilities across the country and internationally. The best of the best gather each year for competition and camaraderie. Teams sometimes train for the entire summer to compete in the two traditional events of the competition–the hurtman rescue and the pole climb. In addition, there are two mystery events that simulate real world scenarios for the apprentices and journeyman teams. The Rodeo is preceded by a two-day trade show exhibition and safety conference, in which Atlas Devices held an interactive exhibit.

We were stationed in booth 801 with ropes rigged from the ceiling for Ascender demonstration on both days of the expo. Our demonstration was even featured in Transmission & Distribution World! We of course showcased our utility market products, most notably the Atlas Tower Kit. The main components of the Atlas Tower Kit include the APA-5-U Powered Rope Ascender and the REBS Pneumatic Launcher (compact or full sized). We had a great time showing visitors how our equipment has afforded line crews unprecedented access while minimizing environmental impact and complying with OSHA 100% attachment standards. Many visitors were thrilled to ride the APA-5-U and get an up close look at the REBS Launchers. On top of establishing a higher, faster, safer first man up, the APA-5-U can be used for load hauling and two-person rescues. Unfortunately, the APA-5-U was not allowed in the competition, but in spite of that (or perhaps because of it), it is sure to increase access and decrease work time at your next job site!

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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.

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Atlas Devices Utility Powered Rope Ascender Tower Kit Featured in Transmission and Distribution World

The Atlas Tower Kit has been featured on T&D World’s website where its use case for linemen in harsh, remote environments is highlighted. Tucson Electric Power (TEP) is one of the first companies in the electric utility industry to adopt Atlas products into their normal hoist, winch, and rescue routines, saving time and money while minimizing environmental impact and complying with OSHA fall restraint standards. Atlas Devices worked closely with TEP to ensure our Powered Rope Ascenders would be compatible with their standard equipment and procedures. We look forward to expanding our customers’ reach and enabling such vital work to be done higher, faster, safer.

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Atlas Devices Awarded Best in Show for Powered Ascender Exhibit at Special Operations Forces Industry Conference

Atlas Devices is honored to have been chosen to receive the inaugural “Best in Show” award at this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC). Although it was our 9th year attending the expo, our efforts to continually expand the interactive nature of our booth paid off especially well this year, leading to the recognition by a unanimous decision of the judges. Thanks to our ongoing R&D efforts continually yielding exciting new innovations to showcase, we had a great reception from many users who connected with the capabilities offered by our ever-expanding product line. Our triple-tier shipping container climbing structure contained both a ferromagnetic wall and a “hook and climb” assembly. We were able to demonstrate virtually every product in our catalog, most notably our newest Powered Rope Ascender: the light and compact APA-1X—which spares none of the legendary ruggedness and reliability that Special Operations Forces expect from Atlas Powered Ascenders. Other tactical access and rescue solutions included the Atlas Tactical Ladder (ATL), the REBS Pneumatic Grapnel Hook Launcher, and the REBS Compact Launcher. We enjoyed connecting with professionals from around the world to show how our solutions and development capabilities can extend reach and reduce risk to warfighters and tactical service personnel. Thank you to all who were involved in making this conference so successful!

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Atlas Devices Outreach at Boy Scouts of America 2018 New Hampshire State Jamboree

Recently, Atlas Devices was invited to participate in the New Hampshire Boy Scout Jamboree. The BSA Jamboree, which is held in the state every four years, brings together Scout Troops from across New England for a weekend of camping, tradition, and activities. This year, the Jamboree was held at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on May 4th-6th. The event organizers asked if we would demonstrate some of our equipment for the participants on Saturday, May 5th. We were to be among dozens of other exhibitors in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) camp. Other camps that were present in and around the race track included a shooting sports camp, a high adventure camp with a climbing wall, a First Responders camp, and an aviation camp.

I was especially excited to be able to participate because I am an Eagle Scout from Troop 459 in Lee, NH and attended the NH Jamboree as a Scout back when it was held at Gunstock Mountain Resort. I have always felt that my time in Scouting has helped direct me in my adult life, and I continue to use the skills I learned in my professional career. The Co-Founder and COO of Atlas Devices, Dan Walker—who is also an Eagle Scout, even joked that it was the reason I was hired. To make this outreach opportunity even better, we received permission from the NH Motor Speedway to rig our ropes to their 85 foot steel display tower in the race track infield.

With a car packed full of demo gear, banners, and swag, we got an early start from Boston and were inside the track by 8 AM. We began by harnessing up and climbing the tower to set our ropes and banner. At the top, we had an excellent view of the entire speedway and surrounding areas. Nearby campsites were ravaged by wind which had been blowing 50+ mph since the prior evening. Several race cars and a few motorcycles were practicing on the track for most of the day, and a Black Hawk helicopter made several flyovers. The wind proved a nuisance, but we were up and running by 9 AM with an ascender line, a safety line, an Atlas Tactical Ladder (ATL) setup, and a REBS Compact Launcher with grappling hook projectile on display.

At first, it appeared to many as if we were a utility crew repairing the tower, but eventually several scouts, their leaders, and families came over to see what we had going on. We explained various methods of rapid access and rescue to them, incorporating the gear we had on hand. To facilitate interaction, we allowed the Scouts to use an APA-5 Wireless Remote to control one of us on the Ascender. One Scout in particular could not get enough, and declared he was going to stay with us all day (which he just about did). Zipping up and down the height of the tower caught some more attention, including that of the University of the New Hampshire Wildcats mascot and one of the Jamboree organizers in a “Tommy T-Rex” costume, both of whom we hooked to the APA-5 for a ride up the tower. A reporter from the Union Leader took photos for a story released later that weekend—highlighting the fact that 3,600 Scouts were in attendance!

In the afternoon, we handed out the rest of our stickers and bracelets and began packing up. We were visited again by an event organizer who thanked us with a card and 2018 Jamboree patch. Since many of the other activities were still going on, we decided to browse the rest of the STEM camp. Inside the nearby garage, they were offering welding instruction and showing off robotic submerged vehicles. In the parking lot, the New Hampshire Astronomical Society had several telescopes tracking the sun, capturing the solar corona. We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the Jamboree, and look forward to participating in similar outreach programs in the future.

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Atlas Utility Ascenders and REBS Launchers Exhibit at Incident Prevention Conference Loveland

We’re excited to be here at the Embassy Suites in Loveland, Colorado for this spring’s Incident Prevention Utility Safety Conference and Expo! This is Atlas Devices’ first time attending iPC, and we’ve just finished setting up our exhibit in booth 165 adjacent to the main entrance. Our ropes have been rigged to the Embassy conference room ceiling, allowing for demonstrations of our Utility Powered Ascenders (APA-5-U) up to 35 feet. Other equipment includes our REBS launchers, which are both on display and shown in use by utility professionals on a 55” screen. A reminder that we will be running scheduled demos of the APA-5-U at 9:30 AM, 11:00 AM, and 1:00 PM both days of the expo, with more in between as necessary. We look forward to meeting attendees during exhibit hours in addition to attending utility seminars and panel discussions offered throughout the week. To learn more about our company’s mission, don’t forget to attend the Atlas private reception just off the main Embassy bar on Wednesday, April 25th from 5-8 PM. Our CEO, Nate Ball, will be giving an address and we will discuss how Atlas technologies can help address your individual rope access needs. Refreshments will be provided and there is going to be a raffle for a custom YETI cooler. Check out the time-lapse footage of our booth setup below, and remember that we are also here to learn from YOU, so please stop by and introduce yourself!

IP Booth Build 2018 from Atlas Devices on Vimeo.


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Atlas Devices to Showcase Utility Products at Incident Prevention Conference (iPC) in Loveland, Colorado

We are excited to announce that Atlas Devices has joined the lineup of exhibitors at the spring Incident Prevention Conference (iPC) in Loveland, Colorado April 24th-26th. Our recent expansion into the utility market makes iPC an obvious choice to learn, network, and of course showcase our Atlas Powered Ascenders and REBS Launching equipment. Come visit us in booth 165 during exhibit hours to meet our team and get a hands-on demonstration of the APA-5-U Powered Ascender. Scheduled interactive demos will be running at 9:30 AM, 11:00 AM, and 1:00 PM both days of the expo, with more in between as necessary. Also be sure to attend the exclusive Atlas Reception on Wednesday, April 25th from 5-8 PM in the Embassy dining room reserved off the main showroom bar to discuss your company’s access needs and hear an address by our co-founder and CEO Nate Ball, who is also the Emmy Award winning host of the PBS Kids hit engineering show Design Squad. We look forward to hearing how our state of the art technology can help you achieve your objective and go higher, faster, safer.