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The Paramotor

Small, Light, Powerful

The paramotor is a wonder of small-scale aircraft engine engineering. They are usually petrol-powered 2-strokes. The French have been making them for years, so the Adventure motor in all its variations has become well known in power paragliding circles. Since 1990!

Other well known brands are the Fresh Breeze motors from Germany and Walkerjet motors from the Czech Republic.

Something you wear on your back before takeoff can't be too heavy. So most such motors weigh in the range of 20 to 36 kg (45 to 80 lbs). Actually, 'paramotor' refers to the whole assembly which hangs under the paraglider canopy in flight. This consists of a metal tubing chassis to which is attached the engine with its propeller and cage, plus the harness which also provides a seat for the pilot.

A range of sizes are available, since the pilot/engine/canopy combination must be right for safety and performance reasons. Some units come with electric starts rather than the usual pull-start mechanism. However, pull-starts save a fair bit of weight and complexity and are favored by many schools.

A paramotor, including prop and cage.

A Typical Paraglider Engine

Here's some specs for an Adventure motor that suits fairly light pilots.
Engine Solo 210 - a 14.5 HP single cylinder 2 stroke
Max Thrust 46 kg (100 lbs)
Propeller 2 or 4 blades - 37" wood or composite
Air Time 2.5 to 3 hours on a 2 US gallon tank
Empty Weight 20 kg (44 lbs)
Noise Level 56 - 54 dB (at 300 ft)
Pilot Weight max 75 kg (165 lbs)
In addition, Fresh Breeze motors have the following features.
  • emergency motor jettison (could be a life-saver over water!)
  • certified by the DULV (German ultralight association)
  • tuned exhaust which is very quiet and provides extra thrust

Going Electric!

It had to happen eventually. The first practical electric paramotor has been constructed and flown, in Canada. Csaba Lemak and Patrick MacKenzie managed to beat the considerable technical odds against them and eventually got the weight down and the power up to flyable levels.

I've seen electric radio controlled models fly, and they perform similarly to the much noisier 2-strokes. It might not come as a surprise then to learn that the new motor for powering a paraglider is basically a model engine on steroids! Apparently the prototype was powered by 112 Lithium Polymer batteries and a custom wound three phase motor weighing 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs).

Although they can't yet stay in the air very long, electric motors require very little maintenance. Surely we will be hearing more and more about electric motors for paragliders in the future!

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