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The aim of this investigation is to find out how weight affects the terminal velocity of the same parachute.

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Parachute Investigation

Aim: The aim of this investigation is to find out how weight affects the terminal velocity of the same parachute.


A parachutist will come across terminal velocity twice throughout a jump. First the parachutist jumps from a high (extremely high) platform/plane/hot air balloon and then begins to accelerate downwards. At the precise moment of the jump there is no force acting upon him (assuming that it is a guy) except his weight. Straight after the jump the parachutist begins to accelerate at a rate of 10 m/s2, having acceleration and an increasing velocity also increases the air resistance. The man will continue to accelerate until terminal velocity is reached. This is when the force of air resistance and weight are equal therefore creating no resultant force meaning no acceleration. Even though the man is not accelerating he is going at a high velocity and if he were to hit the ground pretty hard and most likely kill himself. This is why there are contraptions called parachutes which lower the terminal velocity quite dramatically.

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The only variable that I am going to change and investigate is the weight. I will keep all the others the same to allow my test to be fair and come up with accurate results to base my investigation on. Changing the weight is not a hard task, all I need to do is add a fixed mass every try. I will carry out each mass 4 times to ensure thoroughness throughout the investigation.

Surface area of parachute:50cmx50cm

Length of string:2 x60 although the string is divided into ½

Number of strings: 2 but they are joined at both ends and meet in the middle

Height dropped from:2.64m

Trial Testing


  • 1 Bin liner
  • String
  • Tape
  • 6 2g Plastacine pieces
  • Scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Stop watch


  1. First I will cut out a 50x50 parachute out of a garbage bag.  
  2. Puncture holes in each of the corners.
  3. Tie equal amounts of string to the parachute.
  4. Make sure that the parachute weights 100g.
  5. Choose a site to drop the parachute and measure the height of the fall.
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During the test run I realized that the parachute took time to open so perhaps when while I am holding the parachute of for deployment I should hold the parachute open to minimize the time that the parachute has with the parachute un-opened.

We took the test run inside a classroom with a controlled climate, this was very effective although there was some disturbance from the air-conditioner, when carrying out further tests the air conditioner should be switched off.

Final Method

  1. Review the preparations from 1-4 in the previous method before starting these next tasks.
  2. Raise the parachute to a fixed height of 264cm, this height is not too high nor too short for the measuring of speed. Make sure that you are holding the parachute open before dropping it. Be sure that the timer is ready. At the same time drop the parachute and start timing. Stop timing once the parachute hits the floor. Repeat this 3 times to ensure accuracy and record the results.
  3. After the first testing try the second one (with a different weight) eg 10 grams, 15 grams, 20 grams etc.




Average Time (secs)

Average Velocity



















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