Fast-roping, also known in the military as the Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES), is a technique for descending a thick rope from a helicopter to a ship or other space-limited location. It treats a rope much like a fire pole and users simply slide down it with no safety devices. As such, it is quicker than rappelling, although more dangerous, particularly if descending person is carrying a heavy load. Descending with a pack not only increases weight but it dramatically shifts the center of gravity of the wearer and makes it difficult that person to remain in a vertical position necessary for landing and moving quickly away from the rope. This is a critical need in combat scenarios or for wildfire fighting although getting away from rapidly spinning blades, immediately overhead is a good idea regardless of the situation.
With this need for a safer method to rapidly descend in a controlled way and still allow the operator to quickly detach in a manner consistent with their experience with other harness systems Air Force personnel have developed the the Auto Belay Insertion System. This is an integrated three-component device which includes existing commercial auto-belay technology. The system mounts in military, as well as search and rescue aircraft and addresses the special needs for hostile environment insertion. The overall approach and the three key subsystems are currently patent pending. Components include:
- Push-locking load attachment device – this is the aircraft integration portion which secures the system to the current FRIES bar and replaces the common U-ring connection
- Belay descending load attachment with pulley brake – this braking component works in conjunction with a commercial auto-belay system and allows full stoping capability in the event of drifting off of the landing site
- Tip resistant harness with quick disconnect – this operator attachment/detachment piece keeps a pack-wearing individual upright and allows for quick release even under tension
The image on the left shows a warfighter descending a fast rope–note the lack of safety devices. The illutration at right shows the entire Auto Belay Insertion System.
- Adds a critical safety feature to fast roping
- Keeps the users in a prone position while descending so that they land on their feet, ready to get away quickly from the landing point
- Auto Belay Insertion System, USPTO serial number 15/494,699
- Push Locking Load Attachment Device, USPTO serial number 15/487,833
- Belay Descending Load Attachment with Pulley Brake, USPTO serial number 15/489,116
- Tip Resistant Harness with Quick Disconnect, USPTO serial number 15/498,518