Canopy Crane Access System

Useful information for the firts-time user

The information here is directed at researchers who are already scheduled to work with either of the STRI cranes, but have never actually used them before.

Arriving at STRI

You will first come to the administrative headquarters and laboratories (situation map here) of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City. Here you will be introduced to administrators and biologists involved with the canopy biology program. You will be accompanied on your first trip to the crane to be introduced to essential safety procedures. Subsequently, you will meet the crane operator at the crane. The directions below are included to give you some idea of the travel time involved in reaching each crane.

Reaching the Parque Natural Metropolitano Crane

Take a taxi from Panama City and ask for the ‘Parque Natural Metropolitano’, via Avenida Juan Pablo II. The Park entrance is close to the Park headquarters and the crane is 5 minutes walk from the entrance of the Park. The crane operator will be waiting for you at the crane. The entrance fee for PNM is waived for researchers working with STRI. Please show you ID badge to the Park ranger at the entrance of the Park, if needed.

Situation map of the PNM crane near Panama City. GoogleEarth image

Reaching the San Lorenzo Crane

The crane operator and researcher(s) usually leave STRI’s Tupper building at 06h00, with a STRI 4WD car. Traveling time to the crane site near Colon is about 2h30. The last seven km are a dirt road requiring a 4WD vehicle. Both the operator and researcher(s) leave the crane site at the latest usually around 15h00. Different schedules can be agreed beforehand. Researchers are requested to pay diesel "expanses" for the trip ($20.00).

Situation maps of the San Lorenzo crane near Colon


Working with the cranes

The procedure is the same for both cranes:

1. The crane operator gives you a radio (channel ‘Smithsonian - Grua’) and climbs in the crane cabin. He then lowers the cable and crane hook.

2. You engage the crane hook into the large gondola ring. Operator lifts off slightly the hook so that you can insert the security cables on both small safety rings of the gondola.

3. You climb onboard the gondola and tell the operator with the radio that you are ready. He lifts up the gondola and you close the door.

4. You proceed with your work, giving directions to the operator with the radio (see basic terms below).

5. You go down and follow the procedures in reverse order: open the door before touching ground, help the operator to land the gondola into the 4 ground holes, disengage security cables and unhook the gondola.

Connecting the crane hook into the gondola ring

In case you do not speak Spanish

It is easier and quicker to give instructions in Spanish to the crane operator. Remember to give directions relative to the position of the crane operator, not to your position in the gondola. A few basic terms:

Up = arriba

Down = abajo

Right = derecha (for the operator)

Left = izquierda (for the operator)

Forwards = adelante, al frente

Backwards = atrás

Stop = alto

More = más

Less - menos

To the ground = a tierra

Thanks = gracias

Booking the cranes

The cranes can be used anytime: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, it is requested that use on Sundays and holidays be kept at a minimum. The PNM crane is booked by the hour, while the San Lorenzo crane is booked by the day. Please contact Argelis Ruiz to book the cranes.

Metropolitan Park Crane

Canopy cranes home