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A paramotor is a device that typically combines a two stroke engine with a harness and large fan for use with powered paragliders (PPGs). The pilot of a PPG will usually strap the paramotor to his back and then use it to achieve powered flight in conjunction with a paraglider wing. Due to the thrust generated by the fan, it is often possible to achieve flight from a level surface without any assistance. Most paramotors use a two stroke engine that runs on a mixture of oil and gas, though there are also a few four stroke options, and even electric motors may be available.
Traditional parasailing typically involves an assisted takeoff, either via a towline or inclined ground. A paraglider pilot can usually achieve unpowered flight by simply running down a hill, especially if there is a drop off available. Parasailing is another variant that involves a towline that can be connected to a speedboat or other water craft. In unpowered, untethered paragliding, the flight time can be limited by the ability of the pilot to use the glider wing to catch updrafts, while tethered forms such as parasailing rely on the tow vehicle. A paramotor can allow the pilot to take off unassisted and also extend flight time, as it offers an onboard source of propulsion.
Paramotoring, which is the act of engaging in powered paragliding, first gained popularity in the 1980s. Basic paramotor designs have remained relatively unchanged, typically consisting of a flight cage that includes a seat, harness, fan, and motor. The paramotor unit is typically connected via two contact points to the risers of the glider wing, allowing the pilot control over his elevation and direction. Controls typically consist of brake toggles for steering and a throttle control to adjust the speed of the engine.
Most paramotors use light, two stroke engines that can offer a favorable weight to power ratio. Engine displacements can vary anywhere from 80 to 350cc (about five to 21 cubic inches), and larger motors are often used for tandem gliders that can carry multiple people. Four stroke engines that run on straight gasoline are somewhat less common in paramotors because larger, heavier engines can reduce flight time. Electric motors can also exhibit shorter flight times than two stroke gas engines. The batteries required to power an electric motor can be quite heavy and bulky, requiring the pilot to choose between the extra weight of more batteries or less reserve power, both of which can reduce flight time.