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The Military Power Technology

Military Uses 'Bat-Hook' To Tap Power From Lines 282

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the cutting-corners dept.
Zothecula writes "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 US 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."
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Military Uses 'Bat-Hook' To Tap Power From Lines

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  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:55PM (#34199150)
    You might think you are a real-life superhero, but you are probably not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wowbagger (69688)

      Try this at home, and you might just be a superhero:

      THE FLASH

      (at least briefly).

      Seriously: DO NOT TRY THIS!

      Even residential lines are many tens of thousands of volts, and will flash-fry you!

  • Prior art? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thomaswp (841668) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:56PM (#34199166) Homepage
    There is prior art in Indian cities I believe. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4802248.stm [bbc.co.uk]
  • The addition of the spike to get through insulated lines is a nice addition, but I don't know that its really needed, some how I imagine the places where this will get used don't bother with such things as insulation. Its a common practice to steal power in 3rd world countries to just toss a cable over the nearest powerline. I've seen pictures of streets in slums where the powerlines just look like spaghetti from all the cables just draped over them.

    • by jcrb (187104)

      the post "Prior art?" has exactly the image I was thinking of

    • by tom17 (659054)
      Actually, you WILL need the spike. This is NOT designed for tapping in to the high voltage distribution lines, but the low voltage residential lines that feed individual buildings.

      If you didn't have insulation on these cables, then the live & ground would just short out at the source as they are twisted together.
  • Retrieval? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by falldeaf (968657) <falldeaf@gma i l . c om> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:58PM (#34199190) Homepage
    After you throw the hook over a line and jab it into the insulation, how do you take it back off? I didn't see the video address this and the shape of it doesn't seem like it'd be easy to get back down?...
  • Army? Yes.
    Marines? Sure.

    The Air Force? I wasn't expecting that!

    How far do the Air Force guys get from airplanes and hangars and runways? It seems like they don't really have the same type of "field" that the land based grunts do.

    • by Haedrian (1676506)
      "My plane broke down, I just need some juice to get the engine started again"
    • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:17PM (#34199452) Homepage Journal

      Most Air Force critters aren't pilots. Plus, Air Force Para-Rescue as well as Forward Air Controllers are specialized grunts who happen to work for the Air Force. The military is full of weird situations like this. For example, the Army operates 119 vessels [defensenews.com] (we're not talking about inflatable rafts here).

      • by paiute (550198)

        Most Air Force critters aren't pilots. Plus, Air Force Para-Rescue as well as Forward Air Controllers are specialized grunts who happen to work for the Air Force. The military is full of weird situations like this. For example, the Army operates 119 vessels [defensenews.com] (we're not talking about inflatable rafts here).

        As I recall, during WWII, the Japanese Army operated its own submarines because they hated the Japanese Navy too much to ask for a loaner when needed.

        • Yeah if memory serves, their military was very territorial and did not play well together. I seem to remember reading that they refused to share knowledge between their flight schools, so Army and Navy aviators were completely incapable of sharing their experiences. Their Navy also maintained huge numbers of troops because they didn't trust the Army to fight on land.

          Of course, that's nothing compared to the complete separation between their military and diplomatic corps. That was literally two organizati

          • by idontgno (624372)

            That musta been an interesting phone conversation.

            Phone: Ring ring!
            [Japanese Ambassador to the US answers phone] Hello! Good morning, Admiral, how are things going in Tokyo? Oh, you're not in Tokyo? Aboard the Akagi, eh? Interesting.

            You did WHAT!??! Pearl HARBOR? WHEN?!

  • by BitterOak (537666) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:03PM (#34199258)
    I thought tapping into power lines to steal electricity is illegal. In fact, even using an induction antenna to steal power is illegal. Will the military have a special contract with the power companies to let them do this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jolyonr (560227)

      > Will the military have a special contract with the power companies to let them do this?

      Probably not a big issue when you have a lot of guns and are invading the country in question.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Probably not a big issue when you have a lot of guns and are invading the country in question.

        One of the first things they did in Iraq was to knock out the power. Currently, it's probably only useful in occupied countries with working electricity. I wonder if such a thing would be prohibited by either the Third or Fourth Amendments even overseas (I guess it depends whether you were "in a time of peace" for the Third Amendment and the seizure was considered "unreasonable" for the Fourth Amendment).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)
        It's possibly a war crime actually. You're not allowed to pillage, and one would assume that would mean using an occupied nations electrical grid against it as well. Now, if you're in their with the backing of the ruling power, I doubt very much that they'd appreciate you damaging their power lines in that fashion.
    • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Compaqt (1758360) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:11PM (#34199370) Homepage

      Well the article says this is for special ops forces, which basically means that they are in Country X without an invitation, usually to kill people and break things. So recharging their iPhones seems to pale in comparison.

      • by Nidi62 (1525137)

        Well the article says this is for special ops forces, which basically means that they are in Country X without an invitation, usually to kill people and break things.

        You do realize that the role most often played by Special Forces is training and advising indigenous military forces, right? Special Forces includes everything from Rangers to Delta and Dev Group. Ever read "Inside Delta Force"? At least half their time is spent training the military forces of other states, or protecting high value targets like embassies or diplomats. Most of the time they are present in another state, they are there with at least the tacit knowledge and acceptance of that government.

        • To be fair, if they were operating in a hostile state... you probably wouldn't get to read about it. Maybe you are only seeing the operations they allow to be published?
          • by Nidi62 (1525137)
            He documents a mission protecting the US embassy in Lebanon during the 80s. If that isn't considered a hostile state, I don't know what would be.
      • I'd assume they're recharging radios, GPS devices, or even a Predator ground station, not an iPhone ;)

    • by L3370 (1421413)
      Free electricity--Spoils of war.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Presumably it's for use mostly in other countries. Which means they'd better have 220v converters, or switching power supplies.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Last time I checked, killing people was much more illegal than "stealing" power. Priorities, man!
    • by gravis777 (123605)

      Um, if you are at war with a country, do you really care if you are stealing electricity or now?

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      When you have invaded a nation, stealing a little of their power is not really a legal problem.

      If you are protecting your nation that has been invaded, stealing a little power is not really a legal problem.

      • What are you doing going round invading nations though? That's a horrible pretense to develop any technology from.
    • Generally, when invading a country, soldiers don't have to obey local ordinances. You'll notice the M1A1 doesn't stop for red lights, and J walking foot soldiers are rampant.
  • by N0Man74 (1620447) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:09PM (#34199346)

    It's a good thing that they are just tapping in to get free electricity... rather than tapping into networks to get free music downloads, otherwise the U.S. Military could be liable for trillions of dollars.

  • by icebike (68054) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:12PM (#34199384)

    This seems odd if you ask me. Anytime the US military assaults a populated area the first thing to disappear is the power grid.

    Once they hold an area, they could just step into any building and get all the power they need. Who's going to say no?

    Seems this is designed to be used for clandestine operations, where they need a fairly substantial amount of power from a power system they know is still operational.

    But look at the size of the cable notch and you can see this is to tap into building feed lines (entrance lines), its not big enough for high tension lines, (which generally aren't rubber coated any way). Any line small enough to fit in that notch

    Does that mean this is planned for suburban/residential areas or locations where there are building feed lines overhead? Some of the images on the linked page seem to show this (the unshielded cable in the images being for suspension only, and the other two conductors for power).

    Yet that kind of entrance is not all that common in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, so one wonders if this isn't for domestic use in disaster relief situations where no one will begrudge them the power.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      "High Tension"

      I.e., high-voltage.

      You're not going to run your laptop off of 100 kV.

      So yes, this is designed for the distal end of the grid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Anytime the US military assaults a populated area the first thing to disappear is the power grid.

      From TFA, this was requested by special operations critters. They and other secret squirrels are in, snooping around, way before the power grid is taken out by air strikes. This thingie is meant for them, not regular troops.

      Once they hold an area, they could just step into any building and get all the power they need.

      . . . if they hadn't destroyed the power grid as mentioned above. Oops. "Unpack the diesel generator, Scotty."

      • by icebike (68054)

        The odd thing is, you have to be very close to buildings to grab power off of their feed lines. Likely to be noticed. Unless they take over a rural dwelling, how could they install this without being caught? Any place they might use this is a place that would be very public and hard to get away with.

        And just how much power to special opps guys need anyway?
        It would be easier to steal power from someones car battery to recharge your stuff.

  • The article doesn't detail whether this is for tapping power from single phase household drops only, which I assume is the case ... or can it also be used to tap higher voltage lines?

    Ron

    • I'm guessing the low voltage based on the mention of overhead street power and the vertical hook-throwing range of a soldier.
  • This would only work on the low voltage line between the pole mounted transformer and the building it is connected to. Trying to use it on a transmission line, even a small one in the woods would result in high voltage being fed to the device and likely whoever is holding it. In this case why not plug into an outdoor outlet, or just go inside and borrow the use of an outlet., shelter, etc.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      You mean especially in a small woods. The transmission lines between cities tend to be much higher voltage than the ones in a typical city. The electric company tends not to obsess about hot spots on lines in the city the way they do those interstate transmission lines.
  • Anyone else see this and get a flashback for Thicknet Vampire taps?

  • Your tax dollars at work, because in war time there is always electricity flowing in the power lines everywhere. It's not one of the first, if not THE first, thing to go.../sarcasm

  • by bkmoore (1910118) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @05:59PM (#34201394)
    On paper, nice concept. But just one minor problem: the power grid's most likely down, or was never built. I served in Iraq in 2006-2007 and again in 2008-2009. Even six years after invading the place, the central grid worked only sporadically. Most Iraqis had portable gasoline-powered generators. Other countries such as Afghanistan or Somalia probably never had a functioning electrical power system (outside of a few capitol cities). I was with the Marines in Iraq. We got by fine with batteries and some small utility generators. The only reason for tapping local power would be to run air conditioning, without which the Air Force is probably out of the fight. Second point is if US soldiers were to tap the local grid for power, guess who would be blamed for every power outage? It would drive unit commanders insane paying damages for spoiled milk every time the power went down. And we would pay to avoid controversy.

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