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Investigation to find out whether changing the surface area of the wings on my helicopter will change the rate of it's descent.

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I aim to find out whether changing the surface area of the wings on my helicopter will change the rate of it’s descent.

Apparatus:                           I will need:



stop clock,

metre ruler.


        Air resistance is a force that acts upon any object falling through the air. It slows the rate of descent on an object with any surface area. Scientific research has found that by altering the object’s surface area, the amount of air resistance either increases or decreases, changing the rate of descent.

        Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. My helicopter will fall to the ground because of the gravitational pull of the Earth. In reflection to Newton’s law, the opposite force in the case of my experiment will be air resistance. As gravity is pulling my helicopter to the ground, air resistance is pushing up onto my helicopter, slowing its rate of descent. The rate of gravity is always the same, as the gravitational pull from the Earth is the same, so the factor in this case, which affects the rate of descent, is air resistance.

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The drag force (air resistance) is always in the opposite direction to the motion. The force of gravity is equal and opposite to the drag force.

I predict that by altering the surface area of the wings on my helicopter, I will be able to change the rate of descent by increasing and decreasing the air resistance of the wings. I think that if I increase the surface area of the wings, the amount of air resistance will increase, and my helicopter will take longer to reach the floor. If I decrease the surface area, there will be less air resistance, so my helicopter will travel faster. I also think that whilst doing my experiment, I may find the terminal velocity of one of my helicopters.



  • Make a helicopter out of a piece of paper. Make the wings 11cm x 3cm each, and the base 10cm x 3cm, leaving a 1.5cm gap from the edges of the wings, like the one shown here.
  • Fold one wing forwards, and the other backwards along the dotted line.
  • Measure a height of 2m from the floor. Make a mark on the wall so that you know where to drop your helicopters from.
  • Stand so that the first helicopter is level with the mark on the wall, and get another person to stand on the floor with a stop clock.image02.png
  • Let go of the helicopter and time how long it takes to hit the floor. Record your results in a table.
  • Repeat with the same sized helicopter 3 times, and then cut 1cm off the length of the wings. Repeat the experiment until the wings are 1cm long.
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        My results don’t show a linear pattern, the average times go down in steps, but this may have been caused by experimental errors. More of my average times are above my line of best fit than on or below it.


I think that my experiment was fairly successful, as from my results I can see that my prediction is usually correct- reducing the surface area of the wings decreases the time it takes to get to the floor, because of the reduce in air resistance. If I was to do this experiment again, I would make another helicopter in a different way, because I think that that my results may have been in a more linear fashion if the helicopter spun more in the air.

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