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Mission Everest: How SolidWorks helped Bear Grylls achieve the impossible

This is the story of how SolidWorks helped turn an impossible dream into reality.

Revolutionary. Pioneering. Innovative. Lots of companies think they are, but few live up to the billing. That’s certainly not the case with Gilo Industries. On a sunny day in May 2007, they propelled ultralight aviation to new heights – 29,494 feet, to be precise – when Bear Grylls strapped on Gilo’s paramotor (think: powered paraglider) and flew over the summit of Everest.

This is the story of how SOLIDWORKS helped turn an impossible dream into reality.

What’s the story?

Meet Gilo Cardozo. In 2001 he took an unassuming workshop in Semley, Dorset and began manufacturing world-beating paramotors (Imagine a cross between a jetpack and a paraglider and you’re close). Gilo called his company Parajet. Six years later they would hit the world stage.

Flash forward to 2007 and British adventurer Bear Grylls came to Gilo for assistance on a lofty project: to become the first person to fly a paramotor over the summit of Everest – with every twist and turn and peak and trough to be documented by the Discovery Channel in a programme called Mission Everest.

Gilo accepted and the challenge was on.

Mission Everest or mission impossible?

Creating an engine capable of flying over Everest presents one or two challenges. It must be robust enough to fly at nine kilometres above the earth in temperatures below -50oC and equivalent wind speeds of 200mph, yet light enough to be carried on a paramotor. The technology simply didn’t exist. Parajet would have to build it,and many thought it impossible.


How did SOLIDWORKS help?

Parajet conquered the engineering challenge emphatically, developing a revolutionary rotary engine capable of delivering 95hp and fitted with a unique dual-fuel injector system that compensated for the changes in atmospheric pressure. But without SOLIDWORKS, it may not have happened at all.

Parajet needed to create an extreme propulsion system, with a high power-to-weight ratio. The concept started as a 3D design in SOLIDWORKS and evolved quickly. Of course, modelling engines is incredibly difficult, but SOLIDWORK’s simulation modules allowed Parajet to perform FEA (Finite Element Analysis) with ease – testing dynamics, heat tolerances and stresses to see how the design would function in the real world. This significantly reduced the risk of error and dramatically reduced test costs. It also allowed Parajet to continually pare back the design to make sure the engine was as light as possible.

What was the outcome?

The engine was a success. On the 14th May 2007 Bear Grylls took off from the foothills of the high Himalayas, before flying above Everest at an altitude of 29,494 feet – as high as many commercial jetliners. Watch the video here. It was a remarkable accomplishment. And it was just the start for Gilo’s boundary-smashing engine.

The engine Parajet had created represented a leap forward in rotary engine reliability and performance, with the highest power-to-weight ratio of any commercially available aspirated engine. It became the envy of much of the aviation industry. Inquiries started rolling in for Unmanned Aeronautical Vehicle (UAV) applications (or drones) from the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and NATO.

This was a big deal. And SOLIDWORKS allowed Parajet to make the most of the opportunity.

From Parajet to Rotron…

That started with the birth of a separate company – Rotron – to hone and manufacture the engine on a commercial scale. Continual simulation, testing and iteration in SOLIDWORKS has allowed Rotron to fine-tune its engine for a durability and longevity that is unrivalled on the market.

SOLIDWORKS has also allowed Rotron to streamline the manufacturing process – and the quicker you build a product, the less it costs. SOLIDWORKS Composer means Rotron’s engineers can take exploded drawings from their designs to include in build manuals that show the assembly technicians exactly how each part must be constructed. In addition, because SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional exceeds all the relevant industry standards, Rotron can promise its customers AS90100 compliance and certification, with a full audit of the design process available in one-click.

In short: Rotron is making the biggest small engines in the world. Innovation that, for once, lives up to its billing.

This post was originally published by By  on the SOLIDWORKS Blog and is being reposted here with permission from Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corporation.