With its ability to handle any rope thrown at it with ease, the Powered Rope Ascender would’ve been the perfect device for those torturous rope climbing activities in gym class. Although they’ve been around since 2004, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) threw down the gauntlet to Boston-based Atlas Devices to create an Ascender for naval use that is lighter, smaller, more functional, and includes a removable, rechargeable battery. The device the company came up with is currently on display at Fleet Week New York.

Originally built as a prototype for the Army in 2004 for use in urban combat and cave exploration, the Department of the Navy soon took interest in the Ascender's multipurpose function. The Ascender allows warfighters to ascend and descend vertical surfaces at high speeds and can aid in naval operations where boarding enemy vessels, evacuation of remote casualties, helicopter extraction, or mountain warfare assault team deployment is needed.

A visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team expressed a need for the technology to a science advisor for Marine Forces Pacific so TechSolutions, part of the ONR's Office of Innovation, challenged Atlas Devices to help create a successor to its Atlas Rope Ascender for naval use. From request to completion, only eight months passed.

In testing, the Ascender proved it can hold a target load capacity up to 600 pounds at a 6-feet per second rate of ascension. The powerful rope not only lifts and lowers, but can tow vehicles and remotely move equipment and casualties as well, making it a valuable tool for VBSS teams. Its high-power, high-density lithium battery will allow a load to ascend 375 feet without recharging.

Sailors and Marines played an integral role in testing the device and providing feedback on its features and usability. Using their feedback, ONR evolved the next-generation's functionality, design and potential for commercial use.

"The beta version will be able to recapture 10 to 15 percent of its potential energy as it descends, which can be used to recharge the battery," Brus said. "That's a huge improvement from the original prototype."

While the release of the beta prototype is tentatively scheduled for September, attendees at this year's Fleet Week in New York City will get a glimpse of the machine in live demonstrations. The Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center is scheduled to receive the first supply of advanced Powered Rope Ascender.