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An Investigation into how the Area of a Parachute Affects the Speed that the Parachute falls from a set height.

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An Investigation into how the Area of a Parachute Affects the Speed that the Parachute falls from a set height.


In this investigation I will test five different sized parachutes to find out weather the bigger the parachute is the slower it falls. I am going to try and keep the test as fair as possible but there are a lot of things that can affect the experiment so the results might not be entirely accurate.




Firstly I decided what size range of the parachute I was going to use I decided that the range would be 15cm diameter to 35 cm diameter going up in 5cm intervals because the material I was going to use was to small to get use any bigger sizes than that. Below is a table of information about the range I have chosen.



Area (π x r)

15 cm

7.5 cm

177 cm

20 cm

10 cm

314 cm

25 cm

12.5 cm

491 cm

30 cm

15 cm

707 cm

35 cm

17.5 cm

962 cm

π = 3.141592654

I then set up the experiment and got ready to carry it out. I

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Using the same stop clock for recording the drop time for all tests.

I will try to apply all of these fair test conditions when performing the experiment this was we will receive the best and most accurate set of results.


From my research into parachutes I have discovered that through history parachutes have been used for getting people safely to the ground from high places. I have also discovered that air resistance plays a large part in the drop speed of the parachute. This has made me come to the prediction that my experiment will also be affected by air resistance and the larger the surface area of the parachute the more air resistance there will be. My prediction is as follows:

The larger the surface area of the parachute the longer it will take to complete the drop.


Below are my results as you can see I have worked out the average drop time and shown the height I dropped it from each time.

Diameter of Parachute.

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The fact that the larger the surface area of the parachute the longer the drop time is useful to know and understand because:

When people are jumping from airplanes or ejecting from fighter planes then the designers need to know how big the parachute should be. Also in theory someone could have a extremely large parachute and spend a lot longer in the air. The only problem with this I have discovered from research is that if you get caught over a current of hot air you could end up rising higher because the hot air turns the parachute into a hot air balloon and you could end up getting stuck up in the sky for some time because it is possible for you to get stuck in these hot air currents for some time. This most recently happened in the 2nd World war when Para gliders jumping from airplanes got stuck above the battlefield because of all the fire and hot air being given off.

Since then the parachute has been re-designed so that this cannot happen anymore because the parachute isn’t big enough.

Michael McLean 11LH

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