World’s lightest electric paraglider trike developed
Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have successfully designed and built the world’s lightest electric paraglider trike, that can take off and land with wheels while carrying an adult pilot.
The aircraft dubbed The Delta, has two rear-mounted propellers, horizontally arranged, each driven by a motor and is powered by lithium polymer batteries.
It is the lightest aircraft in the world that can take off and land with wheels while carrying an adult pilot and may provide a safe, clean and simple way to realise our dreams of flying, researchers said.
The Delta was specially built for the National Geographic Channel’s new series “Machine Impossible”.
“We had to find the lightest airfoil possible, a wing, blade or sail crucial for flight, which we found in a conventional cloth paraglider,” said Rangarajan Jegadeesan, of Design-Centric Programme (DCP) at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
“We had to find the lightest motors to provide enough thrust for The Delta to be airborne; and we had to build it so that it is light enough to fly yet sturdy enough to be safe,” said Jegadeesan.
The Delta weighs just 49 kilogrammes and is capable of carrying one person up to 75kg.
In its current prototype, The Delta can fly up to a speed of 36 km per hour under normal wind conditions, and for a typical flight time of 10 minutes on fully-charged batteries.
This allows it to cover up to a distance of 6 km.
The Delta’s form is simple, minimalistic, yet sturdy it has a chassis with wheels and steering, a seat for the driver, two electric motors, two propellers, and it incorporates an off-the-shelf paraglider.
Researchers custom built The Delta’s chassis, which includes a frame made from aluminium with carbon fibre connections materials chosen for their strength and lightweight nature.
It has three wheels, where its two back wheels are supported by fibreglass rods suspension, while the front wheel is connected to the steering, an inspiration that the team took from the familiar children tricycles.
Researchers also designed several features to ensure the safety of the pilot. This includes a roll cage to protect the pilot, fibreglass rods to cushion the landing, barrier nets between the pilot and propellers, and engine kill-switches for the pilot in case of an emergency.
The maiden flight of The Delta took place on March 19 this year at the Sungai Rambai Aerodome in Malacca, in neighbouring Malaysia.
The flight was successful on the first try. The Delta takes off in a similar fashion to conventional aircraft the motors power the propellers, which propel it forward, researchers said.
The propellers also generate sufficient draft to fully engage the paraglider’s parachute at the back. Once The Delta gains speed of around 30 kilometres per hour, it takes off.