Using the Personal Vacuum Assisted Climber won’t make you Spiderman but it will get you up a sheer face without the usual grapples and ropes.

The Air Force Research Lab sponsored a contest challenging entrants to get climbers up a 27 meter concrete face without grapples or ropes.  The prize went to the team from Utah State University whose Personal Vacuum Assisted Climber (PVAC) demonstrated its ability to hold a 300 pound load on the wall while the load climbed up the wall.

PVAC wall-climber

Climbers are supported by the suction generated by two battery powered vacuum pumps.  Each pump pulls 4.5 PSI which draws on metal pans fitted with soft rubber rims to stick to the wall.

personal vacuum assisted climber pods

The prototype unit weighs in at only 45 pounds.  Even now, a 200 pound individual could get up a wall with enough gear (55 pounds) to accomplish some significant activities.

This project seems to be seeking a stealthy way to gain access via or to cross a verticle barrier.  I don’t know what you do about the wail of two rather strong vacuum pumps – maybe only scale the wall during an artillery barrage.  My other question is how fast the user can scale the wall.  Surprise can be generated by speed as well as stealth.  My bet is tossing or firing a grapple over the barrier and scaling the barrier with a motor assisted climber (aka winch) would get you up much faster and probably quieter.

Hats off to the students at Utah State University.