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Aerial Lift

An aerial lift has more meanings. On one side it can define a means of cable transport in which gondolas, cars, cabins, or open chairs are transported above the ground by means of cables. This kind of systems is employed usually in mountainous territory and has seen extensive use in mining. Aerial lift systems are easy to operate, and are and have also been used to cross ravines and rivers. In more recent times, the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of aerial lifts has seen an increase and they are being integrated into urban public transport systems.

On the other side, an aerial lift can means an aerial work platform or aerial device, mobile elevating work platform or elevating work platform. This defines a mechanical device that is used to provide temporary access for equipment or people to inaccessible areas, situated at height. There are several distinct types of aerial lift systems or mechanized access platforms. Each individual type may also be called a “scissor lift” or a “cherry picker”.

The aerial lift systems are generally used for flexible and temporary access purposes such as constructions and maintenance work. They are also used by firefighters for emergency access. Aerial lift systems are distinguished from elevators or other permanent access equipment. They are usually designed to lift limited weights which are usually under a ton. Some aerial lift platforms have a higher safe working load but are still distinguishing from cranes. Aerial lift systems are usually set up and operated by a single operator worker.

No matter the task they are used for, aerial lift systems may provide additional features beyond access and transport, such as being equipped with compressed air connectors or electrical outlets for power tools. They may also come with specialist equipment, including tools for carrying frames for window glass. Some aerial work platforms are called under-bridge units and they are used to lift operators to a work area.

Lifting mechanisms

There are a few different types of aerial work platforms. Each of them has specific features specific for different applications. The main difference is in the drive mechanism which helps to move the working platform to the work site. Most are powered by pneumatics or hydraulics. The different techniques determine also the availability and pricing of each type.

Cherry Picker

In the past aerial devices were exclusively operated by hydraulic pistons, powered by gasoline or diesel engines located on the base unit. Nowadays are gaining popularity lightweight electrically powered units for maintenance operations such as window-cleaning, especially in isolated courtyards or indoors. In such locations heavier hydraulic equipment is not appropriate to be used. Aerial devices are close to a crane in appearance. They include a number of jointed sections controlled to extend the lift in different directions. Usually they also include “up and over” applications.

This type of aerial work platform is also known as a “cherry picker”. At its origins it was designed for use in orchards. The machine allows the picker standing in the transport basket and to easily pick fruit high in a tree. The jointed design ensures minimum damage to the tree. With the time passing, the term “cherry picker” has become generic. Today it is commonly used to describe articulated aerial lifts.

This type of aerial lift platforms is widely used today for construction and maintenance work of all types, including in the telecommunications and power industries to service overhead lines. Cherry pickers are also used in arboriculture to provide an aerial work platform on dangerous or difficult trees.

A specialist type of the aerial articulated lift platform is the type of fire tool used by firefighters worldwide. This is a vehicle that is designed to provide difficult or high level access. These specialized types of platforms come often with additional features including water cannon and piped water supply in order to aid firefighters in their task.

Some articulated lifts devices are limited to the accessible distance by the length of each of their boom arm. By using telescoping sections, this range can increased. Some other large hydraulic platform models which come mounted on a lorry can reach heights as much as over 100 meters.

Most of articulated lifts require a wide supportive base in order to operate safely. The vast majority of the models have extending struts or legs in order to accomplish this. These legs can be hydraulic or manual, depending on price range and size of the machine. Some aerial lift platform systems are classified as “spiders” due to the appearance of their legs. Spiders aerial lift systems are also available in compact form, in order to be used inside buildings and fit through doorways.

Scissor lift

A scissor lift is a specialized type of aerial lift platform that can move usually only vertically. In order to achieve this , the mechanism used is is a linked, folding supports in a criss-cross “X” pattern. This type of mechanism is known as a scissor or pantograph mechanism. By the application of pressure to the outside of the lowest set of supports is achieved the upward motion, elongating the crossing pattern, and moving vertically the aerial work platform. The platform may feature also an extending “bridge” in order to allow closer access to the work area.

The contraction of the scissor action can be mechanical, pneumatic or hydraulic. It may require no power to enter “descent” mode, depending on the power system employed on the lift, but rather a simple release of hydraulic or pneumatic pressure. These methods of powering the lifts are preferred, because it allows a fail-safe option when the platform is returning to the ground by release of a manual valve.

Other types of aerial lift systems are the hotel lift, motive mechanism, unpowered systems, self-propelled, vehicle-mounted etc.


Usually the power assisted drive and lift functions of an aerial lift platform are controlled by an operator. The operator can be situated either on at a control panel at the base of the unit or on the work platform itself. Some models feature a panel at both locations or they come with a remote control. This way the operator is having a choice of position.

Controls vary by model, but are frequently either a joystick or buttons. They can control features like:

  • · Lateral movement
  • · Vertical movement
  • · Platform / basket movement
  • · Rotational movement
  • · Ground movement


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