Snappy Page Essence
Take up paramotoring for animal rights by looking down on your opponents to observe them and learn what they are up to.
Look down on your opponents from a paramotor to observe them and learn what they are up to. Take videos of what they are doing and radio instructions to a ground team to close in on them. Your opponents could be shooters, trappers, rustlers, diggers for animals to bait, and anyone holding an illegal event in the open air.
You do not need an aeroplane, quite an expense to buy and maintain. You just need a paramotor. A paramotor is the same as a paraglider but with an engine driving a propeller for ease of take-off and long-distance steering. It is the simplest and cheapest form of powered flight - a new paramotor costs about the same as a motorbike - and is easy to learn to fly. Although some bodies have classified paramotoring as a dangerous sport, it is said to be the safest way of flying, safer than riding a motorbike. Should your motor go dead, all that happens is that you glide and sink slowly to the ground, because your parachute is already fully deployed.
A paramotor is a parachute, more technically a wing, attached to a harness with a little seat at the bottom bearing a small two-stroke motor. You lay out the wing behind you on the ground, strap the harness on to your back, start the motor and run a few steps. The wing inflates and gently carries you off the ground. Then you slip onto your seat and away you fly. Take-off distance is three to eight metres (10 to 25 feet) with a comparable landing distance. With experience you can even make a standing landing: land in zero feet.
You do not need a runway for takeoff, just a big clear field (with a paraglider you would need a suitable hill for take-off). So if you live on the edge of town you need only carry your paramotor to a suitable field where you can launch yourself into the air. Otherwise, a paramotor is small enough to put in the back of a car and you can drive it somewhere else to get aloft.
Once airborne you can fly to all points of the compass travelling at up to 40 kph (25 mph). You can fly on long cross-country powered-flights or turn the motor off and glide silently in thermals, restarting the motor in the air any time you like. Increasing the motorís speed makes you climb, decreasing it makes you sink. You steer by pulling on special lines attached to the wing; pull on the left lines to go left, pull on the right lines to go right, pull on both sides to slow down. An alternative way of steering, for when you really need both hands free for filming, is to fit a tricycle undercarriage to the paramotor and press against its foot bars using your feet. You can buy a tricycle undercarriage from a small number of devotee paramotor-makers.
A tandem paramotor may be more suitable than a solo paramotor if you need to concentrate entirely on flying, in which case you will take an observer/camera operator with you. Of course, a tandem is more expensive and less manoeuvrable than the solo craft. But then when flying your paramotor as an observation platform you want one that is stable and easy to handle, not one that is made for performing aerobatics.
Learning to Fly a Paramotor
Some paramotoring enthusiasts organise themselves into clubs and offer to teach novices the ways of the paramotor. They may give you a minimum of 25 hours coaching spread over several days and offer you the hire of one of their paramotors plus flying equipment. Their syllabus should cover groundwork and airwork. Groundwork is what you must know before taking to the air, including knowledge about equipment, motors, safety, flying theory, weather and air law. The airwork is what you need to know to get airborne, fly around and land. On successfully completing a course they may give you a certificate that might be validated by a national or international body. The cost of the course could work out as equivalent to the price of a new paramotor.
However, paramotoring is a sport that so far has gone largely unregulated by the aviation authorities in most states, including the United States and Britain. Thus you will probably have no need for a licence to fly a paramotor and a certificate from a club may not be necessary. Indeed, there is nothing stopping you from learning to fly a paramotor without doing a course at all (but see What You Need, below). Another way to learn to fly a paramotor is by teaming up with an already experienced paramotor flyer. Or you could learn to fly a paramotor alone, like the early pioneers of flight; they had no one to instruct them. Whether or not you take a taught course or learn by yourself, in the end you still have to go solo - fly alone on your first flight - because no one else can fly the machine for you. There are a few dual machines about but they are not in much use.
Should you opt to learn to fly a paramotor alone you must be confident you can do it. Do not be in such a rush to get off the ground that you make potentially disastrous errors. Perhaps the most common mishap you can make as a novice paramotor pilot is during launching. Inexperienced paramotor pilots running along the ground may try to get into their seat too soon, before the wing has time to lift them properly off the ground. They lose their balance and fall over, and there follows embarrassment and injured pride. The really unlucky ones get their propeller bent as it bites the dust. This is about the most serious practical blunder you can make when learning to fly a paramotor, even with instruction from a club.
Read all you can about paramotoring, especially if you intend to master by yourself the art of how to fly a paramotor. Work through one of the syllabuses for learning to fly a paramotor. You can pick up a syllabus on the Web or get one from a club. There is a fair bit about paramotoring online, including video clips of paramotor pilots taking off, flying about and landing. Two good books are by Whittall (1) and Goin (2).
What You Need
What are the prerequisites for flying a paramotor?
Advantages of a Paramotor
- Enthusiasm for flying and pioneering aerial animal rights.
- A budget that will buy and maintain the equivalent of a motorbike.
- Be able to transport your paramotor by foot or by car to where you will launch yourself.
- Be in reasonably good health, ie able to run a few steps during take-off with about 30 kilos (60 pounds) of motor and harness on your back. A disability may not be a problem provided you can do this and control the paramotor in flight. Some machines are of relatively lighter weight and you could opt to fit a tricycle undercarriage for a wheeled take-off.
- You may also want insurance against personal or third party injury. This could be where gaining a certificate from a paramotoring club can be handy if the insurers insist on evidence of worthiness.
Disadvantages of a Paramotor
- Flying a paramotor is cheap compared with all other means of flying: a paramotor is easy to maintain, portable and you do not need a licence to fly it.
- You can pilot your paramotor almost anywhere (but see Disadvantages, below) to make observations and take photos that you cannot do when flying a remote controlled helicopter. (As an aerial snooper your helicopter must be in your field of vision the whole time, otherwise you cannot know where it is, which way it is pointing or even which way up it is - see Aerial Snooper, Chapter 4. You always know where your paramotor is and what it is doing because you are strapped to it.)
- Flying time for a paramotor is one to two hours, depending on your weight and flying conditions. (Much longer than the 30 minutes or so for a remote controlled helicopter.) And you can increase your flying time by taking a bit of spare fuel with you - simply land and top-up.
- Fuel is ordinary gasoline (petrol) that you can buy at any filling (petrol) station. However, you must mix it first with a small amount of oil. The 'gasoil' ('petroil') mixture lubricates the moving parts; without it the engine will seize up.
- You could easily fly up to 5,000 metres (15,000 ft) altitude - the world record is over 6,000 metres (18,000 ft). But civil aviation regulations will restrict you in most places to a much lower altitude of a few hundred metres above ground; however, this is no draw back when flying a paramotor for animal rights or for fun.
- In addition to animal rights work you could use your paramotor for wildlife surveys and aerial photography. In some countries you cannot legally do this for commercial gain from a foot launched paramotor. However, by fitting a tricycle undercarriage for takeoff and landing you miraculously convert your paramotor to a different class of machine to which this rule does not necessarily apply. Check the aviation regulations of your state.
- Paramotors are basically fine weather machines. Given a paramotorís speed it is unsafe to use a paramotor when winds blow at 25 kph (15 mph) and over or in poor weather.
- With no cockpit to shield you from the wind in a cold climate you will be chilled in the cold months.
- Civil aviation rules forbid flying paramotors over built-up areas and close to airports (check the regulations for your state).
- Animal abusing opponents will not think you are spying on them, until perhaps they get to know what you are up to and listen for you coming; a paramotor is as noisy as some lawnmowers. But you can always turn off the motor to glide silently and then turn it on again in mid-flight when you need it. Quiet electric paramotors are being developed.
Also see Drone (UAV) Flyer for Animal Protection
, Chapter 4.
(1) Whittall, Noel. Paramotoring From the Ground Up: a comprehensive guide
. Airlife Publishing: England. 2001.
(2) Goin, Jeff. Powered Paragliding Bible
. Airhead Creations. 2006.
›› To Entries & Home