Colliding with an aircraft while paramotoring is obviously disastrous. Avoiding airplane flight paths, and keeping up a good scan are currently our best defenses, but that’s hopefully about to change.

Most aircraft have cockpit devices — ADS-B¹ — that warn about collision threats. Audibly. We have it in both of our aircraft (Garmin 650 shown below) and have already benefited from the warnings. Paramotors don’t show up because they don’t have ADS-B “Out²”. I sometimes paramotor up high (above 500 feet) and would like to have one of these, and suspect others would too. It’s like a reserve parachute — something you hope to never NEED, but thankful to have in a very few situations.

UAvionix, makers of tiny, comparatively inexpensive, reliable ADS-B transceivers for airplanes and unmanned aerial systems (pro drones) have made a prototype for paramotors. They’ve built a prototype for testing. It needs only needs 12v from a source capable of sustaining 60 mA. It is transmitting 

Installation was a 10-minute wire-tying of the 3 lightweight bits to my paramotor frame while following some simple guidelines.

  1. The main box needs the chip facing upward to for good GPS signals.
  2. It comes with a power plug that terminates in bare wire (it’s a prototype) and expects 12V. I used an 8 AA battery pack while awaiting a Lithium-Ion version that’s on order.
  3. The antenna should also have a clear view of the sky with the least possible interference from frame parts. There are two antenna options, a single swivel version that mounts right to the unit and a “Y” model that can be tied to a frame part with the antenna elements stickout out. That’s what I did.
  4. A mount that minimizes vibration is probably wise but they made no mention of it. The unit seems pretty stout.
  5. This prototype has no “transmitting” indication so I’m putting a $4 voltmeter on it. 

As best I can tell we’ve never had a viable option for paramotor. Hopefully we will soon and I’ll be the first to buy it. I have talked with a fellow who was working on a similar option so there may eventually be another solution out there. No price yet.

FAA & Organizational Perspective

No word from the FAA if they’ll have any objection. There is nothing FAR illegal, and the specification allows for ultralights, but it’s a gray area in the rules. Namely because they don’t want bad signals causing problems in the airspace system. Initial indication is that they’re fully on board with. and are behind as long as it’s not mandated. Many, if not most paramotor flights never get high enough to benefit, so I wouldn’t blame those pilots for saving the money. But for those who sometimes like to go up high, this would be a great option for everyone involved.

More to report soon…

¹ADS-B Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast: the airplane transmits its location, altitude, registration, and other information when queried by another airplane or a special ground station.

²ADS-B Out means you have a device that can transmit as well as receive ADS-B data.