Parawings or hang gliders were developed in 1948 for use as a wing on inexpensive aircraft. In 1958, NASA considered the parawing as a means of returning space payloads to Earth. While NASA did not select the parawing, the military became interested in it for parachuting. In the mid-1960s Pioneer Aerospace and Irvin Industries, parachute manufacturers, built parawings for the Army’s Golden Knights precision parachute team. NASA’s reentry parachute research was also the original source to inspire Francis and Gertrude Rogallo in their research into flexible controllable fabric airfoils with a delta, V-shaped configuration for use on inexpensive private aircraft.
They were issued a flex-wing patent and refined their designs. Development of the Rogallo wings, used by U.S. Moyes, Inc., substantially broadened the flexible airfoil technology base. John Dickenson incorporated the Rogallo technology, particularly the airfoil frame, into the design of a kite which served as the prototype for the Australian Moyes line of hang gliders. These initial uses of the parawing gave birth to what is now multi-million dollar annual earnings for the hang gliding industry. Today, dozens of companies around the world produce parawings, hang gliders, and powered gliders for military, commercial, and recreational use.