PVAC Design: Spiderman-Like Ability Now a Reality
For this year’s Air Force Research Laboratory Design Challenge, one entry stood out among the rest – the PVAC or the Personal Vacuum Assisted Climber. Designed by the Ascending Aggies team of Utah State University, the device allows anyone the uncanny Spiderman-like ability of climbing walls, through a vacuum motor-powered system composed of two suction paddles. Working primarily through the concept of suction, the device traverses up the surface of a wall, so that anyone wearing this backpack-like contraption can cling to any glass, stucco or brick façade without being pulled down by gravity.
The suction power of the PVAC is the reason why it works so effectively. This suctioning power can accommodate a total weight of between 500 and 700 pounds, although this will vary according to altitude differences. The PVAC won first place at the competition, with Utah State University besting 17 other civilian schools participating in and 33 other wall-scaling devices presented at the yearly AFRL Design Challenge.
The participants were all given nine months, as well as $20,000 in seed money, by the Air Force Research Laboratory to work on their respective entries. A $100,000-grant has been awarded to the winning teams to develop their respective technologies further.
The PVAC, of course, is not without its practical application. It is designed to work in real-life operational efforts by allowing one soldier to scale a wall using the vacuum climber and to assist the others in climbing up by setting up a rope winch.
There is one significant drawback, though. The PVAC emits a loud vacuum cleaner-like noise when in use, so that using it in stealth operations can be quite a challenge. With the $100,000-grant, however, the winning team hopes to make a few refinements on their wall scaler – reducing the noise or eliminating it altogether, improving power efficiency and adopting a slimmer design for the PVAC.[via]