Is There A Simpler Aircraft Than This Electric Paramotor?

The dream of taking to the air has probably ensnared more than a few of us, but for most it remains elusive as the safety, regulatory, and training frameworks surrounding powered flight make it not an endeavour for the faint-hearted. [Justine Haupt] has probably delivered the simplest possible powered aircraft with her Blimp Drive, a twin-prop electric add-on for her paragliding rig that allows her to self-launch, and to sustain her flights while soaring.

It takes the form of a carbon-fibre tube with large drone motors and props U-bolted to each end, and a set of brackets in the centre of laid carbon fibre over 3D-printed forms to which the battery and paraglider harness are attached. The whole thing is lightweight and quiet, and because of the two contra-rotating propellers it also doesn’t possess the torque issues that would affect a single propeller craft.

We’re not fliers or paragliders here at Hackaday, so our impression of the craft in use doesn’t come from the perspective of a pilot. But its simplicity and ease of getting into the air looks to be unmatched by anything else, and we have to admit a tinge of envy as in the video below the break she flies over the beach that’s her test site.

If you recognise Justine from past Hackaday articles, you’re on the right track. Probably most memorable is her rotary cellphone.

52 thoughts on “Is There A Simpler Aircraft Than This Electric Paramotor?

  1. Looks like it could do with some prop guards. Would be all too easy to stick a hand in there when encountering turbulence and getting slammed around a bit (an unfortunate, if rare, reality of paragliding and the reason I prefer unpower craft with rigid wings and a glide ratio more unlike that of a brick)

    1. yeah i’m not sure the traditional paramotor mounted behind the pilot is brilliant either but this one seems to me like if that boom started shifting in any axis relative to the rider then it could very easily either attack flesh or ropes. scary.

      but you do have to admire the simplicity and elegance of it. i’m too scared to play with a parafoil in any form anyways :)

    2. Ouahh, toute la modestie d’une grande intelligence, tu forces le respect !
      « one week-end project », remises en
      questions permanentes, partage d’expérience totalement transparent… Je suis bluffé !

      Thanks for sharing your amazing idea with such modesty and self criticism !! The the best example of what intelligence and crafts(wo)manship can do together. My true idea of ingeneering.
      Fly safe and enjoy your toy !!

      Greetings from France !

  2. That looks amazingly simple and neat.
    Anyone able to speak to the safety aspects of adding power to a para glider?

    It may not be the flying car we were promised, but it may be much more sensible a solution.

    1. paraglidering + fan = paramotoring which is already quite a big thing for those people who want to paraglide but don’t have hills and ready thermals to make use of.
      …although it’s normally with a petrol engine strapped directly to ones back in a cage

    2. electric paragliders have existed for a few years now. would love to learn paragliding but it seems everytime i want to start learning someone articles pop up about how a paragliders died because of this or that and i get scared.

      1. Don’t let that stop you. Everything carries a risk. Personaly horse riding and motorbikes scare the crap out of me (well, other road users). But I love flying PGers. You’ only live once. Just be the sensible, risk averse pilot I’m sure you will be.

    3. As much as I love electric motors I would strongly caution against them for paramotoring. I looked into them for years and eventually understood why pilots shun electric for gas: they don’t give you the air time to really develop your skills. The flight windows for paramotoring are so short already, and electric batteries shorten those significantly. I’ll stick with the 2 stroke for now, build my experience, then maybe go with an electric for a backup unit in a few years.

      That said, this works really well for her because the electric motor is there to just help her maintain flight. She can ridge soar the coast for hours without the motors. Those motors are there to help get her back up if she ventures too far out from the ridge- giving her more freedom.

      My absolute favorite part though is the two prop design! I’ve dreamed of one like this for a while. My motor Induces a slight torque turning me right all the time my motor is on. The counteracting rotation here eliminates that. I love it!

      1. Disagree! Most flight training involves takeoffs and landings. Just flying around in the sky is the easy part. Also, look: with a gasoline-powered paramotor, you have more endurance than most pilots really want, so you never have the reason to learn how to soar. With an energy-limited setup like this, you are almost as motivated to find thermals as you are in a glider, but without the expense of hiring someone to pull you to a useful altitude.

        1. The major issue with batteries are they are heavy, and remain the same weight for the entire duration of the flight. This is an issue if you have a hard landing. Typically on a gas powered paramotor, you’re probably near the end of your fuel, so you’re significantly lighter.

    1. See Tucker Gott’s latest ‘crashes’ video for a guy that cut his finger off in this exact situation. I like this project but holy moly it is a dangerous (hopefully) first prototype.

  3. One of my old professors was convinced you could use little EDF units for this and missed the point they would be inefficient. The slower the air you shove bckwards the less liketic energy you give it…

    A ducted fan, if designed correctly, for all else being equal is more efficient than one not in a duct. Would help keep limbs out too.

    Ducts or no ducts, would love a go!

    1. Ducted fans would be the way to go forward, I think so too. Also helps with guarding against fingers and cables getting into the fan. :)

      Also, you could put the batteries inside the tube. Less loose stuff hanging around.

      And I’m also thinking: the weight and the torque from those engines are not going to be so high. So the tube could easily be square, I think, which means: more space for batteries.

      This is making me want to try paragliding myself. :P

      1. Actually, her hanging the battery below to tube to help orient the fans is a pretty important design aspect. Anything else would require a more substantial coupling to maintain orientation, presenting risks in rough landings and would have weight costs.

        Her design is very sound as it is.

      1. Still, motor out on takeoff, just as in most twin aircraft, is the worst thing, and the fact that you can cut power quickly doesn’t help you that much. You’re still going to hit that tree that was way out of your intended climb path.

    1. This was what worried me about this configuration as well. At takeoff you’re going to be at / near max power, so if you have one of the motors disconnect (say, bad wiring / connector vibrates loose), you suddenly have a massive torque steer issue. This is an issue even with single motor paramotors; I shudder to imagine what happens when you have the huge moment arm.

  4. I’ve long dreamed of flying and have gone skydiving a few times. Owning a powered parachute was on my bucket list as I thought that would be a pretty easy way to get up there and safe too. Worst case the motor goes out and you just glide back down. You are already hanging from a parachute.

    Then Grant Thompson died doing that. I’m not saying don’t do it or that it’s too dangerous. But it’s apparently not the safe-as-can-be walk in the park that I thought it was. It’s still flying. So respect the heights and stay safe up there!

    Maybe when my kid has graduated and can support herself I’ll revisit my old dream.

    1. Powered parachutes are a whole other beast than paragliders. Powered parachutes, at least when they were introduced, were literally parachutes harnessed to a trike with a fan on it. Those parachutes had very low lift/drag ratios, befitting their application, which was to get you to the ground fairly quickly, with just enough lift that you had some ability to choose your landing spot. So the trikes they were hooked up to had to have pretty powerful motors just to make them flyable. Modern paragliders have l/d ratios around 10 or 12, making it possible to slope soar them, for example, and even catch non-slope thermals in favorable weather.

    1. You beat me to it!

      (cue the Phineas and Ferb episode where they make an airplane of papier mache’, or the World Tour episode where they make a large paper airplane from Ferb’s carefully folded World Map)

  5. She made a fun accessory and it’s great to see anyone taking on projects like this but she also made a comment about how she had an epiphany in creating this attachment for a standard paragliding rig as if it didn’t exist and as if she invented it. A German pilot/entrepreneur has been building and selling electric motor/prop kits for launch assist and extension of paraglider freeflying times for for at least 7 years that I’m aware of. These kits are really quite advanced looking and incorporate into standard cross country harness with props in the center that avoid the potential of chopping up lines on launch or landing and fold when not powered. There are also powered paragliding units that are available as standalone kits as well that give well over two hours of powered flying time and these have been available for close to 40 years though I understand that isn’t what she was going for. The use of drone parts for electric assist paragliders has also been done by three other startups that I’m familiar with

  6. The only thing I saw right off hand was that those carabiners are pretty flimsy holding the battery unit – they aren’t rated for anything major, and even though the battery doesn’t likely weight that much it does bounce providing additional stress to them.

  7. sooo, the contra in “contra-rotating propellers” seemed kinda off to me because “counter-rotating” sounds better imho.
    And guess what – I’m right and wrong at the same time.

    If Wikipedia is to be believed both terms do exist and mean something different:
    – [Counter-rotating_propellers]( are >= two separated propellers turning in opposing directions.
    – [url=]Contra-rotating_propellers[/url] are two propellers on the same axis stacked on top of each other turning in opposing directions.

    -> article could be correcter if you will and I learned something. thx

    (testing markup-url and bbcode-url here becaus HaD offers no syntax help)

  8. There’s no worry about torque on paramotors. The torque on existing single motor/single propeller units is balanced by a slight shift of the pilot to one side. Instead, this arrangement puts propellers in the most dangerous location possible, immediately to the pilot and to the pilot if the lines get cut. It’s fun, but a conventional propeller with a conventional shroud does a far better job of both.

    1. That you can compensate for it by weight shift, doesn’t mean that there’s no worry. I’ve seen at least one pretty gnarly takeoff crash where someone didn’t compensate for it, and ended up going 90 degrees to the path of travel.

  9. Beautiful ! I was a glider pilot, soaring by a plane as ask21 or Dg500 is amazing, anyway the freedom you have taking off from a little piece of land using only a wing made of tiny fabric and air with the silent power of 2 electric motors is…… magic.

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