The Pentagon has successfully tested Spider-Man-like climbing equipment that could one day allow American troops to scale the sides of glass buildings carrying heavy equipment.
The Z-Man programme is inspired by the climbing skills of spiders and geckos and looks for ways to replicate their abilities for US commandos.
Scientists have designed hand-held suction pads sturdy enough to support a full grown man as he climbs a vertical surface carrying bulky kit. The pads were tested at a lab in Massachusetts, where a 16st man was able to go straight up 25 feet of glass using only the paddles.
"The gecko is one of the champion climbers in the animal kingdom, so it was natural for [the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency] to look to it for inspiration in overcoming some of the manoeuvre challenges that US forces face in urban environments," said Dr Matt Goodman.
The US defence department hopes that the new equipment will replace climbing tools such as ropes and ladders, which have not advanced significantly since medieval soldiers scaled castle walls.
The Pentagon also said the new equipment would allow multiple troops to climb a wall together, while ropes or ladders forced soldiers to climb one at a time, putting the first climber at the greatest risk.
The paddles are designed to replicate the adhesives on a gecko's toes, which are sturdy enough to hold the creature's entire weight but also release easily to allow for rapid climbing.
"That feature is necessary for a climber to remain adhered on a surface without falling off while in the act of attaching and detaching the paddles with each movement," according to the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The same organisation is responsible for Atlas, a 6ft robotic humanoid that one day may be deployed alongside human troops on the battlefield.