Drone launch instead of winch launch

Hey guys,
does anyone of you have some experience with winch launch?

Such a winch is quite expensive, and you need an appropriate terrain to lay out the whole length of the cord.

Since Drones become cheaper and cheaper, and even more powerful, why not use a drone instead of a winnch to launch a paraglider into thermals?

the motors, propellers ESCs and the battery used for the OpenPPG could also be used (with a different controller and a different frame) as a quadcopter to possibly launch a paraglider in exchange for a winch.

Any ideas?

I do winch launching in Alberta, we have a very old system shared by about 10 guys, its a payout winch so you don’t lay the line out, you drive down a road and slowly let the line out, using the momentum of the vehicle driving to pull you up and control the tension of the line being released by hydraulic brakes on the drum. Our winch is very cheap, probably worth $2000can. You could build a self launching static electric winch for a fraction of the cost of building a large enough drone to pull you into the sky. It doesn’t seem practical or feasible to use a drone to tow you into the sky. You could probably buy a tesla car for cheaper to tow you up instead of the size of drone you would need to tow up to cloud base.

That would be a very cool use for a Tesla!
Cheers, Patrick

There’s a range of hills (roughly 200m high) in my area, where soaring is a big thing when winds are coming from south.

Problem is there’s only a ramp for those delta hang gliders up the hill. paragliders can not launch there.
in the landing spot, a few meters south, down the hill, (have a look on the map: https://goo.gl/maps/H8yRkpWXTaU2 ) they do towing with ultra light planes. this is also purely for those hang gliders, as the ultra light planes are too fast for us paragliders.

you drive down a road and slowly let the line out

There simply is no space to use a car or a winch to pull us up - hence I will be using my OpenPPG to get in the air and start soaring.

but there are tons of other paragliders, who do not have a ppg license.

The only option would be to use a drone.

You could probably buy a tesla car for cheaper

a Tesla is what, Model S 120,000 USD ?

seriously speaking, I doubt that a drone that would have enough thrust/lift to pull a paraglider would cost more than 5.000 dollars.
Hey, even the OpenPPG has enough thrust to push us in the air - the only difference is that we’ll be carrying it on our back, which means it does not have to lift it’s own weight.

just check this video, this drone lifts a whole person!
It would definitely be able to pull a paraglider into the air: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=At3xcj-pTjg

tow up to cloud base

No need to go up to cloud base, 200m above ground level is way enough to start soaring and catch thermals to go even higher.

So @dzubot since you do have some experience with winch towing - would you let a drone tow you?

I imagine a future with tesla where you can hook up an electric winch powered by the cars battery, do a step tow up and release with auto rewind of line, and then as you thermal and do a cross country flight have the car follow you. When you land the car will be waiting for you and you drive home.

Over 25 years experience towing paragliders - this is all I do. Just ask me and I will be glad to answer you. I designed a bunch of systems over the years and trained people how to safely use the rigs from both ends of the line (one of them John Bouchard, became US. National PG champion). Here’s the latest (85lbs) and work on a fat 40lbs Lipo battery - enough juice for two days on the field towing students all day long. Built in cooperation with someone else (see attached photo) - 4000’ of line - it can do self-towing - the cart is only there to carry it to the beach but the winch is connected to the my car most of the time as I use it to teach PG/PPG on huge sod fields in NJ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsdMIT5lfI0
Beware,… there is a lot more to it than building a winch - anybody can do that - if the tow operator does not know what he is looking at in terms of lockouts, how to recognize their onset and prevent them to begin with then forget the idea, it will spell disaster quickly. This is one of the reasons why the USHPA has implemented new towing rules with certified tow operating schools in the States.

Here is another I designed and built four years ago but was a bit heavy (450lbs) - 4 AGM marine batteries at 60lbs each + the winch/line/electronics, etc… - I now use it as my backup. 3000’ of line.

I don’t think at this point I would let a drone tow me up. If I were you it would be most ideal to get a stationary winch, and do step towing. So you tow up to vertical over the winch then fly downwind still attached to the line, turn around and again fly into wind to gain more altitude. You can get quite high with step towing. I can see many things going wrong with towing with a drone. You need to keep a precise amount of pressure on the line for towing which is why it is best to have a winch where you can control the pressure on the line with a wireless remote. This drone launching would require a very skilled pilot to operate the drone you would need to ensure the line would t get in the props. I see so many issues. You’d be better off to have a drone carry you up like in your linked video and jump from it with dbag once you are high enough. I just can’t see a typical drone having enough power/battery run time to get you to altitude though at this point unless it’s a manned drone like the ehang 184 which at this point is the cost of a Tesla.

OR… instead of using a drone to tow you could put it on your back and have it push you! Haha! Oh yeah! We do that already! :joy:

Seriously though… it would be pretty cool to be able to cut it away and have it home back to the LZ like a drone.


I never thought of that - very cool thought. I would not need the wife at all then, well, for paramotor recovery stuff :>)
I am would like to imagine beyond that, a small enough pack and battery that you would not need a winch and step tow from a winch! One current size of a Bonka that would give you an hour of power. Still want that car to come get me though:heart_eyes:
Cheers, Patrick

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Even better! Will be nice to have some extra power in case you fall out of lift. Get back Into lift continue on. I have no doubt we will get that kind of power density in very short time.

Very nice! That’s amazing two days pulling students up. Our club here has been talking for years to switch to a nice compact system like this that doesn’t require a truck. Something we can put on back of hitch on a car. Can you PM me I’d like details, if your interested in building us one?

Hi Darryl, contact me at info@supair-usa.com about the winch and I will give you more info and how to go about it. Phil:)

I think there is a lot more math that has to be applied to this problem.

Hello everyone,

I think this video is a proof of concept, that it should also work with towing a paraglider:
(The german company Infineon has built a drone to tow a wakeboarder)

It is especially interesting how the infineon engineer says that it has been a challenge to build the drone in a way where it can handle the “dynamic load” when “jumping and sliding around”