DARPA Closer to Urban-combat Spidey Soldiers

SpidermanThe U.S. military has taken another major step toward turning foot soldiers into hand-over-hand wall-crawlers a la Spider-Man.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects says a 218-pound man toting a 50-pound load climbed up and down a 25-foot wall of glass using only a pair of hand-held paddles with a sticking power based on the gecko.

“The gecko is one of the champion climbers in the animal kingdom, so it was natural for DARPA to look to it for inspiration in overcoming some of the maneuver challenges that U.S. forces face in urban environments,” Matt Goodman, program manager for DARPA’S “Z-Man” project, said in a June 5 statement.

The Z-Man project includes several programs to provide combat troops Spider-Man-like climbing abilities for urban warfare. Soldiers deploying to fight in cities will have biologically inspired aids enabling them to scale vertical walls constructed from typical building materials while carrying a full combat load and without the use of ropes or ladders.

It was nearly two years ago that that the agency’s major breakthrough was a 16-square-inch sheet of material – dubbed “Geckskin” – that could stick to a vertical glass wall while supporting a static load of 660 pounds.

Geckskin is an integrated adhesive of synthetic soft skin and firm tendons that “drape” over a surface to maximize contact, the same way that a geckos feet drapes over surfaces. But just as easily as a gecko can step away from whatever surface it is climbing, the Geckskin separates from the surface with a simple tug. And, just like the gecko, it leaves behind no wet, filmy or sticky residue, officials told Defense Tech in 2012.

The novel polymer microstructure technology used in the Z-Man paddles was developed for DARPA by Draper Laboratory of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the agency said in a statement.

Humans are a lot larger and heavier than geckos, so that one of the initial challenges in developing a device to support human climbing was the issue of scaling, DARPA said in its recent statement. The Geckskin climbing paddles capable have to balance sufficient adhesive forces in both the shear (parallel to the vertical surface) and normal (perpendicular to the vertical surface) directions.

Only this way will a soldier be able to remain adhered to a surface during a hand-over-hand climb – attaching and detaching the paddles with each movement, the agency said.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is an associate editor and White House correspondent for Military.com. Bryant covers all corners of the military arena, is an expert on "Don't Ask Don't Tell" issues, religious proselytizing and other ongoing military policy issues. He has covered Air Force support missions during the Kosovo War and in 2006 the aero-medical evacuation mission out of Balad Air Base, Iraq.A journalist since 1979, Jordan also covered stories in Lebanon, Gaza and Morocco. During the Vietnam War he was assigned to 15th Admin. Co., 1st Cavalry Division, Bien Hoa Army Base. Before joining Military.com Jordan was a staff writer and deputy news editor for Military Timesnewspapers in Springfield, Va.

19 Comments on "DARPA Closer to Urban-combat Spidey Soldiers"

  1. Auyong Ah Meng | June 16, 2014 at 1:25 am | Reply

    No if only they also issue web shooters to tangled up/immobilized their "victims"…yum yum..

  2. Props to the biomedical engineering establishment that presumably looked at the mechanisms of gecko adhesion years ago.

    119 hits on pubmed isn't all that much, but as the earliest article is 2000 it suggests the problem has been looked into for at least 14 years. A google scholar search goes even further.

  3. We got the start soon some animal will try to look like us,what do you think some of you UFO believers?

  4. Great idea. I will alert the Veterans who are dying on the secret waiting lists. They will be so excited. "I don't mind dying now.. this is just so cool"

  5. …do the guys have to wear tights?

  6. ….holy cow……Batman!

  7. A "Friendly Neighborhood" moniker would have been useful in these last two wars….

  8. Shit…..soon available at your local climbing store REI….any one any one?!

  9. My brother recommended I might like this blog.

    He was entirely right. This post actually made my day.

    You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  10. And why is our stupid asses publishing this info?????

  11. We should be the ones turning the terrorists backyard into glass – bloom!

  12. C'mon folks….. you don't think this is "old news" for firms like DARPA? What…the first time someone leaves it behind we have so say "well, there goes that technology". Let's see them try and replicate the process to manufacture the item.

    Just say'in….

  13. Appreciating the commitment you put into
    your site and in depth information you present.

    It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed
    material. Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and I’m
    including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  14. This paragraph offers clear idea designed for the new users of blogging, that really how to do blogging.

  15. I blog quite often and I genuinely appreciate your information. This great article has really peaked my interest.
    I’m going to bookmark your blog and keep checking for new details about once
    a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.

  16. Great article. I’m experiencing some of these issues as well..

  17. What’s up to every body, it’s my first go to see of this weblog; this blog
    contains amazing and genuinely excellent material in favor of readers.

  18. Ѕuperbe post :pérennise dde cettе manière

  19. Ѵivement le prochain post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.