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November 12, 2010 AT 9:46 am

The Bat Hook: Harvesting Energy from Power Lines…

The Bat Hook: Harvesting Energy from Power Lines – via @DrenBoy.

Power lines crisscross the skies, delivering electricity with the flip of a switch. But what happens when a soldier is outside, away from an electrical outlet, and unable to access electricity to power equipment or recharge batteries?

An engineer at an Air Force research lab in Dayton, Ohio, has figured out how to harness electricity from power lines via a system called RAPS. RAPS is a connecting device that’s attached to the end of a long cable. When the device is thrown over a power line, a blade at the end pierces the power line and completes the circuit that brings electricity down to the soldier…

“Research and development is an amazing field to work in and yes, it’s fun,” says mechanical designer Dave Coates. “Especially when you have a lot of people saying the task you’ve been given is impossible, and then you produce something like this.”

On Twitter it was suggested that we make a non-military one. There are some issues with this design, can you spot them ?


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6 Comments

  1. Nice idea, but most secondary lines are triplex (three wires, two 120V and a neutral) so this will not fit over them. Also, there are other higher voltage systems out there that operate at hisher voltages such as 480V which look identical and will kill anyone trying to tap into them with such a crude tool. Don’t try this at home.

  2. Anyone notice the Falcon manpack in the background ? (the angled “donkey d–k” antenna).

    If I were the engineering project manager on this new idea. I’d cancel it! There are so many things wrong with it –

    (a). If you’re in the “middle of no where”, it’s very UNLIKELY that cooperating power lines will be around. And if there are, they’re going to be extremely high tension lines that are incompatible with this device.

    (b). There are other less hazardous options open for boots on the ground needing juice.

    (c). From a strictly EE standpoint, how much practical current can be drawn from a small needle like probe ? Answer, probably not a lot ! (see, “b” above). Draw any appreciable amount of current, and you’ll have a nice spot heater burning up the probe and the cable insulation. Does “Stab-Lok” Federal Pacific, circuit breakers come to mind ?

    Back to the drawing board !

  3. Could you make a useful power source without actually cutting into the power line? I’m thinking of getting the power inductively somehow.

    Probably not enough juice to run your toaster, but perhaps enough to run an MCU, a few sensors and a ZigBee / Bluetooth transmitter?

    This would open the door to all sorts of eyes/ears in the sky that wouldn’t depend on flaky batteries.

  4. I don’t have anything to say (other than I wouldn’t want to be holding onto this one when it makes contact). I just wanted to try out the cool resistor captcha.

  5. That is a terrible idea! He is relying on there being a 240v transformer around. If there is, there are people around who will likely let you have an outlet. In an urban environment, there are bound to be a public place, some citizens etc…

    Or, how about solar panels, batteries, and inverters?

  6. One of the issues for a non-military version would be the fact that even if you got it to work, you’re then effectively stealing power off the grid.

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