# The Area of a Parachute Compared To Its Rate of Descent

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Introduction

Physics AT1:

The Area of a Parachute Compared To Its Rate of Descent

Introduction

This experiment is designed to measure the time that it takes in order for different sized parachutes to fall a certain distance. This is done in a specific way that makes this very fair and accurate.

My prediction is that, the larger the area of the parachute, the lower the rate of descent, this is because if the parachute is larger, it will trap more air underneath it, and will take longer to fall. The smaller the parachute, the less air it will trap underneath it, and it will take less time to fall.

Background Information

Parachutes fall according to their air resistance, this can be calculated by their area, such as an average human body falls at 9.81 m/s, a parachute can have this calculated, which is one of the purposes of this experiment. The area can be calculated by A=πr², where A is the area, π is pi and r is the radius. The speed can then be calculated by the time it took to fall to the distance calculated, Distance (m) = Speed (m/s) × Time (s), rearranged to get:

Speed = Distance ÷ Time. The speed that is calculated is the rate of descent.

Parachutes fall by trapping air underneath them and increasing the air resistance. This makes the air resistance larger or equal to gravity so that the parachute now falls at a slow rate.

Middle

1.33

2.86

1.02

3.04

1.97

1.54

Mean speed

1.75

Diameter of | Central hole | Distance fallen | Distance fallen | Total distance | Time (s) | Speed |

parachute (m) | size (cm) | vertically (m) | horizontally (m) | fallen (m) | (m/s/s) | |

0.5 | 1.66 | 2.86 | 1.52 | 3.24 | 2.29 | 1.41 |

0.5 | 1.66 | 2.86 | 0.8 | 2.97 | 2.03 | 1.46 |

0.5 | 1.66 | 2.86 | 0.64 | 2.93 | 2.01 | 1.46 |

Mean speed | 1.44 |

Diameter of | Central hole | Distance fallen | Distance fallen | Total distance | Time (s) | Speed |

parachute (m) | size (cm) | vertically (m) | horizontally (m) | fallen (m) | (m/s/s) | |

0.6 | 2 | 2.86 | 1.6 | 3.28 | 2.37 | 1.38 |

0.6 | 2 | 2.86 | 1.18 | 3.09 | 2.3 | 1.34 |

0.6 | 2 | 2.86 | 1.09 | 3.06 | 2.29 | 1.37 |

Mean speed | 1.36 |

Proportional Results

Diameter of | Distance fallen | Total distance | Time (s) | Speed | Proportional |

parachute (m) | vertically (m) | fallen (m) | (m/s/s) | Speed (m/s²) | |

0.1 | 2.86 | 2.88 | 0.57 | 5.05 | 5.09 |

0.1 | 2.86 | 2.88 | 0.79 | 3.64 | 3.67 |

0.1 | 2.86 | 2.88 | 0.71 | 4.06 | 4.09 |

Mean speed | 4.25 | 4.28 |

Diameter of | Distance fallen | Total distance | Time (s) | Speed | Proportional |

parachute (m) | vertically (m) | fallen (m) | (m/s/s) | Speed (m/s²) | |

0.2 | 2.86 | 2.88 | 1.09 | 2.64 | 2.66 |

0.2 | 2.86 | 2.87 | 0.98 | 2.93 | 2.94 |

0.2 | 2.86 | 2.88 | 1.07 | 2.69 | 2.71 |

Mean speed | 2.75 | 2.77 |

Diameter of | Distance fallen | Total distance | Time (s) | Speed | Proportional |

parachute (m) | vertically (m) | fallen (m) | (m/s/s) | Speed (m/s²) | |

0.3 | 2.86 | 3.06 | 1.22 | 2.51 | 2.69 |

0.3 | 2.86 | 2.97 | 1.23 | 2.41 | 2.50 |

0.3 | 2.86 | 3.32 | 1.29 | 2.57 | 2.98 |

Mean speed | 2.5 | 2.72 |

Diameter of | Distance fallen | Total distance | Time (s) | Speed | Proportional |

parachute (m) | vertically (m) | fallen (m) | (m/s/s) | Speed (m/s²) | |

0.4 | 2.86 | 2.86 | 1.5 | 1.91 | 1.91 |

0.4 | 2.86 | 2.86 | 1.6 | 1.79 | 1.79 |

0.4 | 2.86 | 3.04 | 1.97 | 1.54 | 1.64 |

Mean speed | 1.75 | 1.78 |

Diameter of | Distance fallen | Total distance | Time (s) | Speed | Proportional |

parachute (m) |

Conclusion

Evaluation

The overall experiment was fairly precise and accurate as far as I can see. The problems encountered were minor, and there was only one anomalous result. If I had more time, I would have re-done the experiment at least 10 times in order to get an accurate result from that particular parachute area. This experiment could also be expanded into more areas than just parachutes, there are also many types of parachute, such as the parafoil, where it is designed to travel both forwards and down, very efficiently. This could be compared to the results of the original parachutes or even another further type of parachute. The parachutes could also be extended, so that they were much larger or much smaller in area than the sizes used in the above experiment. There are also other areas of study with the same parachutes, so instead of changing the area of the parachute, change the weights on the bottom to 20g or 5g for example.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Forces and Motion section.

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