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Find out the difference in flight time, of a weighted paper helicopter, on comparison to a mass of blue tack with equivalent mass.

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Paper helicopters and a circular ball of same mass


I am trying to find out the difference in flight time, of a weighted paper helicopter, on comparison to a mass of blue tack with equivalent mass.


Things that could be investigated are:

  • Wing span - which would effect the air resistance of the helicopter
  • Mass attached to helicopter
  • Wing area
  • Increase the mass of the helicopter by adding more paper clips – which I predict would effect the rate of which the helicopter would fall.

Measurement and different interpretation of these variables could be made for example, increasing the amount of mass then compare it with air resistance by timing a piece of blue tact of same mass.  


What I predict will happen is, as the mass of the blue tact is increased the speed in which it falls will be increased too. Also I predict that as the mass of paperclips are added to the helicopter the faster it will fall. The reason and objects stay at rest is because the two forces on the object are equal. Things that effect the rate of which the paper clip fall are gravity and air resistance:

  • If an object is released above the ground it falls, because it is attracted towards the earth. This force of attraction is called gravity.
  • As an object falls through air, it usually encounters some degree of air resistance. Air resistance is the result of collisions of the object's leading surface with air molecules. The actual amount of air resistance encountered by the object is dependent upon a variety of factors. To keep the topic simple, it can be said that the two most common factors, which have a direct effect upon the amount of air resistance, are the speed of the object and the cross-sectional area of the object. Increased speeds result in an increased amount of air resistance. Increased cross-sectional areas result in an increased amount of air resistance.
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You want to find out the comparison in flight time between the blue tack and the paper helicopter; the helicopter design, which should be used, is attached. Paper helicopter must be kept to the same design each time. First the paper helicopter should be weighed with the specified amount of paper clips on an electronic scale, then the weight should be recreated with a piece of blue tack rolled into a ball. The height of the drop should be stated, then the paper helicopter and blue tack should be dropped at separate times while being timed with a stop watch and recorded. This should be repeated 3 times to make sure no mistakes occur.

It is fair test because:

  1. Electric scales are used to make sure the measurement are as precise as possible.
  2. The test is committed inside thus avoiding wind, which would effect the experiment.
  3. It is repeated 3 time in order to make sure no anomalies occur.
  4. The same height of which it is dropped will be kept.

 Some of the variables that can be changed are the weight and design of the helicopter but those will be kept the same by simply making sure accuracy and care is performed.

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  • The accuracy of taking the timing could have been at fault
  • The releasing of the helicopter

Things that made the test unfair are:

  • Every time you put a paper clip, centre of gravity / centre of mass is different.

What would have been better to get a precise reading to the falling would have been to use a laser trigger to set the stop clock off because for people to be split second accurate it would be extremely difficult if not in possible. To extend my experiment I would like to drop the helicopters with greater masses on but be able to record the timing of them accurately.


  1. The essentials of AQA science: Double Award Coordinated Physics
  2. Key science by Jim Breithaupt

Chris Sommers        Page         10/05/2007

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