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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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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 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.