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Bat-hook device taps into overhead power lines

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November 10, 2010

The RAPS features a razor blade to pierce the insulated wire

The RAPS features a razor blade to pierce the insulated wire

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As soldiers are fitted out with more and more electrical sytems to extend their capabilities, they become increasingly dependent on the power needed to run them. Since soldiers in the field don’t always have ready access to an electrical outlet when they need to top up the batteries, the U.S. Air Force has developed a device that taps directly into the electricity flowing through overhead power lines... a kind of bat-hook for real-life superheroes.

Looking like something that would be right at home on Batman’s utility belt, the Remote Auxiliary Power System (RAPS) was developed by engineer Dave Coates for the Air Force in response to requests from special operations soldiers. They were looking for a device that would allow them to tap into overhead power lines to recharge the batteries of their equipment while in the field.

The power lines that run from the street to a house usually consist of one insulated wire that carries electricity to the house, paired with a bare wire that carries electricity away to complete a circuit. For this reason the RAPS head features a razor blade that pierces the covering of the insulated wire while a contact surface on the inside of the head will make a connection with the bare wire.

The Remote Auxiliary Power System (RAPS)

Once the RAPS is thrown over the wires and forms a circuit, electricity runs down a cable to a custom power supply that converts it from AC to DC voltage so it can be used to recharge the special operations soldier’s equipment. To ensure that the device was safe to use even on wet power lines, the system was tested by placing the RAPS head, power supply and even the power lines underwater. It functioned perfectly with no safety problems.

Obviously, the device’s ability to recharge equipment in the field will be limited to fields with power lines, so the RAPS probably won’t be much help in the depths of the jungle or remote deserts – despite what the Department of Defense’s video below says.

Via: Armed with Science.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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10 Comments

Oh to see that go off.....

Mr Stiffy
11th November, 2010 @ 08:55 pm PST

or they could go inside the house and plug in their stuff ...

Mike Donovan
11th November, 2010 @ 10:37 pm PST

Donovan, you did read the part how it was designed for "Special Operations" did you not? Usually they operate in hostile environments therefore the need for stealth is assumed! I worry more about your average "missing a few bricks" crowd trying to copy this design for pirating power and getting reduced to biochar!

Will, the tink
12th November, 2010 @ 02:19 am PST

Your not working with super high voltage your working with 120vac..

that's what you get when you connect to the hot and neutral in this way.

The same power level that comes out of your wall.

that beats the heck out of shimming up a pole and trying to connect in the field.

it's also a very easy device to make.

Facebook User
12th November, 2010 @ 09:06 am PST

This is stealing power. If special operations exploit it, people would do it. BTW, does the sheath prevent corrosion of iron metal inside? negligible resistance then? I think I know what the engineer means, he thinks neh, there are just rare occasions that special forces will use it.

Akemai Olivia
12th November, 2010 @ 04:55 pm PST

Looks like a use it and leave it behind device - you aren't getting that down again.

People already steal electricity with stuff like this, at least here in Mexico.

Kim Holder
13th November, 2010 @ 06:33 am PST

In Jungle/Deserts, they could charge multiple soldiers' devices by hooking on to a portable power source?

Shaun Goh
13th November, 2010 @ 09:53 am PST

This is a good idea but unfinished. I've been an army sig throwing things over a line is easy. Snagging it i hard. The inventor has a lot of practice. Getting it unsnagged and on the ground is the hard part. It needs to be retrievable with out bringing the power line down and live on your head. it needs to do repairable damage to the line. Cutting the power lines insulation is a good idea if you can patch it but this chap has not thought about patching the hole afterwards.

I wound ad a tele-operated widget that Shimmied up the line. detached the RAP and patched the cut with a little goop.

Wesley Bruce
14th November, 2010 @ 05:09 am PST

What about when both wires are insulated?

Checked out my own home and every home in my neighbourhood and both wires are insulated and wrapped around each other.

Nick Kamin
14th November, 2010 @ 04:27 pm PST

There is more cons to pros in this article.... maybe irresponsible consequences too!

Leong Hee Chan
19th November, 2010 @ 02:39 am PST
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