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From Wired’s Autopia blog:

China is home to a widespread DIY culture fed by necessity (the mother of all invention) and innovation. These garage builders and innovators are, like their products, often called shanzhai. Literally translated, it means “mountain strongholds,” but it has come to mean nonprofessional or clandestine manufacturers turning out products from the basic to the highly sophisticated. These shanzhai often take familiar products, concepts and marketing memes and remake them with peculiar but innovative twists.

Aviation is by no means an exception, and it has its share of shanzhai builders. But there is more to it than that. China’s emerging aviator class is spreading its wings with a plethora of approaches, from the ramshackle to the sophisticated to the potentially revolutionary. They’re using everything imaginable, from old motorcycle engines to electric motors to even their own legs, like Mao Yiqing and his human-powered airplane shown above. You could easily plot these adventurous innovators on a graph, with the X axis showing their skill and the Y axis their financial means.

The Sky’s the Limit for China’s DIY Aviators

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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