A group of eight students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) built The Delta – a three-wheeled, electric, single-seater paraglider made with composites. The paraglider was designed for National Geographic Channel’s new series “Machine Impossible.”

The frame of The Delta, which is made with carbon fiber and aluminum, includes a roll cage to protect the pilot.  Nets separate the pilot from the carbon fiber propellers in the rear. Lithium polymer batteries provide the energy for the pair of eight-kilowatt electric motors, which both propel the tricycle and help engage the parachute during takeoff. It has three wheels; two back wheels are supported by fiberglass rod suspension, while the front wheel is connected to the steering.

“The challenge in designing and building The Delta was three-fold: we had to find the lightest airfoil possible, a wing, blade or sail crucial for flight, which we found in a conventional cloth paraglider; 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,” explained Dr. Rangarajan Jegadeesan, one of the project supervisors.

By using carbon fiber in the frame and propellors, the students were able to keep the paraglider to just 108 pounds. It flies at a maximum speed of about 22 miles per hour, with 10 minutes of flight time between charges. However, each charge only takes 45 minutes.

“We will continue to fine-tune The Delta, and at the same time, we also look forward to creating more sustainable recreational vehicles, be it on land, at sea or in the air,” said NUS associate professor Martin Henz. “Such projects have tremendous values in the education of our students in engineering.”