An RC Paraglider

A radio-controlled, or RC paraglider with a motor is something no paraglider pilot should be without. I mean, what else is there to do when you turn up at the local ridge site, and the wind has died, or its direction is off and no-one's game to launch? Pull out your mini PPG (powered paraglider) and start amusing the crowd!

From a distance, all motorized radio-controlled paragliders are basically the same thing. A canopy, with radio gear and motor suspended below it. Doing aerial ballet, all slow and graceful.

Well, graceful if the pilot has a smooth touch on the controls, just like the real thing. Flying radio control paragliders is fairly straightforward if you've flown other RC aircraft.

Free flight model paragliders are also flown, mainly on slopes. With no engine, the owners of these would do their share of para-waiting too, I'm sure!

You can see that my definition of a radio control paraglider is pretty broad. It includes just about any kind of remote controlled airplane that flies under a model-sized parafoil canopy, with or without an engine. For example...

  • free flight RC model paragliders
  • RC skydivers, yep!
  • powered RC paragliders that imitate full-sized PPGs
  • powered RC parachutes, that is, those that use a gondola with wheels

That last category, the powered RC parachute, is by far the most common seen flying these days, in 2008.



The Buzz

Now, these devices are guaranteed crowd pleasers from what I've heard.

Someone at a trade show also observed that women in particular seemed to like the slow-moving and graceful spectacle of these miniature flying machines!

Just check out a few videos at YouTube to see some intriguing flying. The LED-lit night flying is something that is rarely seen in other forms of r/c flight.

To sum it up, the buzz around various kinds of flying forums on the Web backs up the claim that flying RC paragliders is

  • fun
  • downright easy
  • safe, with radio or engine failures resulting in very little or no damage
  • crowd-pleasing, as already mentioned

Although it's just a tiny segment of the RC aircraft market, you can indeed find some radio controlled paragliders for sale.



Free Flight RC Paragliders

Now I suppose there is one reason why paraglider pilots might want to operate a free-flight model. That is because there would be plenty of slopes around that would support a model but not a full-size paraglider simply because the lift region was way too small for the full size aircraft. Hence flying the model might still be possible even when all local soaring sites are not working. Another reason would be wind direction. If the local paragliding site needs a Northwesterly, and there are several tiny slopes which work in a Southerly, guess who will be out flying when the wind is from the South, or nearly so...

You have to admire the enthusiasm of these guys, since right now I'm not aware of any free flight model paragliders you can just buy 'off the shelf'. Rigging and flying a stunt or power kite as a remote control paraglider is not easy to do with total success. And how about those people who take on the challenge of actually sewing up a parafoil canopy from scratch! However, it can be done, and has been done by a few.

Another form of free-flight R C paraglider is the model skydiver! The most obvious way of flying these is to drop them from high-flying kites or large model aircraft. Some guy in a forum reckoned his would only open 3 times in 5. Really! Maybe quality varies a lot in this tiny section of the toy market... Anyway, these model skydivers have sometimes been slope-soared in good conditions.

How's your German? If you are fluent in this language, why not see what Georg is doing with his Austrian web-site on RC paragliding and related hobbies. These guys are super-keen! And here's some good news: in 2010 this site is being translated into English as well. It won't all happen at once, but they have made a start.




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