# Journal of Aeronautics & Aerospace EngineeringOpen Access

## Abstract

### Buoyancy Explains Terminal Velocity in Skydiving

Estimates show that skydivers in free-fall displace a mass of air downwards equal to their own mass every second, in order to maintain a constant terminal velocity. This is also demonstrated at indoor skydiving centers where air blown upwards can suspend skydivers in mid-air. Like a boat floating in water, the skydiver is floating on air. Consequently, Archimedes principle of buoyancy can be used to explain the physics of terminal velocity in skydiving. Conventional physics explains that drag, the force needed to push air out of a skydiver’s path, sets a limit to a skydiver’s velocity. Which is correct but incomplete. It is more accurate to add that according to buoyancy, the skydiver’s velocity will increase until a mass of air equal to his own mass is displaced each second. Drag on a skydiver is defined by the equation: Drag = 0.5 (Velocity2 × Air Density × Surface Area × Drag Coefficient) This equation has severe limitations as It relies on a drag coefficient which must be already known in order to calculate terminal velocity. Worse, this drag coefficient cannot be directly measured and changes constantly. Why is this important? This demonstrates that buoyancy applies to objects that move and is measured over a one second time period. At present, buoyancy is only applied to stationary objects, such as boats or balloons. Also, buoyancy provides a simpler and more accurate method to estimate terminal velocity, without having to know the drag coefficient. This paper predicts that all objects falling at terminal velocity will displace a mass of fluid equal to their own mass each second to maintain buoyancy and a constant terminal velocity. An explanatory video: “Buoyancy explains terminal velocity in skydiving,” is available on youtube, on channel of ‘N Landell’ (the author of this paper).

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