Engines Selection for Powered Paragliders
Updated: Aug 1, 2021
The engines used most often for powered paragliding are light weight high power 2-stroke engines. 4-Stroke engine options do exist, but these are considerably more heavy and better suited to wheel launch paramotor platforms. As battery technology improves, electric powered paramotors will become a more and more viable option, but as of today they offer limited practicality due to limited flight time. For more details on the differences between 2 and 4 stroke engines, see the links below:
Because 2-stroke engines have proven to be the most viable option for powered paragliding, the following discussion will be limited to 2-stroke engines.
When selecting an engine, there are many considerations to take into account. Some of the most important factors are:
For newer pilots just getting started in PPG, the 15hp class of engines (ie. Vittorazi Atom 80, Miniplane Top 80, Polini Thor 80) are perfect for pilots weighing 160lbs or less. The 25hp class (Vittorazi Moster 185, Air Conception Nitro 200, Polini Thor 190) is the best choice for pilots weighing more than 180lbs. This leaves the area between 160lbs and 180lbs. For pilots in this category, the choice can really go either way.
Most would assume that the advertised motor size would correspond directly to their power output, but that is simply not true. Let's take for example the Vittorazi Moster 185 and the Vittorazi Atom 80, both popular and excellent engine choices for use in powered paragliding.
The Vittorazi Moster 185 is a 25hp 184.7cc displacement 2 stroke engine andt he Vittorazi Atom 80 is a 16hp 78.2cc displacement 2 stroke engine. Interestingly based on displacement alone, you would assume the Atom 80 makes only 43% the power of the Moster 185, but this is not the case. The key reason is the fact the atom 80 runs up to 9500rpm whereas the moster 185 runs up to 7800rpm.
A better unit to use in power comparisons would be displacement per minute. For example. an Atom 80 (78.2cc x 9500rpm)=742.9 liters per minute. The Moster 185 (184.7cc x 7800rpm) = 1440.66 liters per minute.
Engine weight should be another major consideration. Many pilots would be surprised to learn how much of their paramotor weight is the engine alone. The Kangook Amaruk with a Moster 185 plus weighs 54.8lbs, 31.5lbs of which is the Vittorazi Moster 185! That means the remaining 23.3lbs, significantly less than half the weight, is spread between the frame, fuel tank, fuel plumbing, swings arms, engine mount, and harness! Engine choice will be the most significant driver of a paramotor's weight.
I would highly recommend looking at parts availability as a major factor when selecting an engine. Unfortunately at some point, every paramotor pilot will have the opportunity to experience 2-stroke maintenance and easy access to replacement parts availability is a must. The most popular engines will have parts stocked domestically. I have found easy access to parts for the Vittorazi engines, Polini Engines, Miniplane Top 80, and Air Conception Nitro engines. This helps to shorten lead time and down time for your paramotor. Recently newer light weight engines have recently come into the market, but at this point they remain unproven and parts are difficult to source. For the newer pilot, I would highly recommend not being a test pilot will also being a student pilot.
If you have any questions or would like any specific recommendations for paramotors or paramotor engines, please do not hesitate to contact us!