In the sport's early days, pilots were restricted to gliding down small hills on low-performance hang gliders. However, modern technology gives pilots the ability to soar for hours, gain thousands of metres of altitude in thermal updrafts, perform aerobatics, and glide cross-country for hundreds of kilometres. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and national airspace governing organizations control some aspects of hang gliding. Gaining the safety benefits from being instructed is highly recommended.
Starting in the 1880s technical and scientific advancements were made that led to the first truly practical gliders. Otto Lilienthal built (barely) controllable gliders in the 1890s, with which he could ridge soar. His rigorously documented work influenced later designers; making Lilienthal one of the most influential early aviation pioneers. His aircraft was controlled by weight shift and is similar to a modern hang glider; he was attached to the gliders by his shoulders, and swung his feet to control them.
Since then, the Rogallo wing has been the most used wing for hang gliders. However, some hang gliders still use swept wings. An example of such a hang glider is the A-I-R ATOS VR and similar models.
The gliders are made of paper with an skeleton of wire. The pilot is an latex-copy of a plastic-gunner of the Revell Heinkel He 177 Greif - simply modified.