In September 2015 I conducted an experiment on which paper plane design flew the furthest, for my school science fair. An abstract of the experiment is listed below. This experiment was quite simple to conduct, and could easily be repeated with the same or different plane designs. The three designs are shown below:
The Dart The Harrier The Sky King
Three designs of paper plane – the Dart, Harrier and Sky King – were tested to determine which was the best flier. Two models of each design were tested in a homemade wind tunnel, and by throwing each plane in an outdoor setting. The Sky Kings produced the greatest lift in the wind tunnel (average 1.61 g), and the Harriers the least (average 1.12 g). The Sky Kings also flew the greatest mean distance (8.72 m), and the Darts the shortest (7.82 m). The Sky Kings and Harriers were more reliable long distance fliers than the Darts, with both designs flying over 10 metres ten times out of the 38 trials (26.3% of the time). The Darts were the easiest to throw, while the Sky Kings were the hardest to throw. In summary, Harriers are a good all rounder, but Sky Kings fly the furthest. Darts are ideal for beginners, as they are easy to throw, and reach reasonable distances.
The wind tunnel consisted of a desktop fan with cardboard/walls on each side, to ensure the wind blew straight toward the planes. The planes were attached horizontally to a wooden stand with a bulldog clip, and the stand was placed upon an electronic scale (200 g capacity, with 0.01 g resolution). The scale was around one metre from the fan.
Each model was tested in the wind tunnel in five separate trials, with the weight being recorded at 5 second intervals for a period of 60 seconds (13 measurements per trial). The Dart was defined as a standard baseline, as it is the most commonly used and simplest design. It produced an average lift of 1.22 g. The Harrier’s average lift was 92.1% of that of the Dart, and the Sky King’s average lift was 131.8% of the Dart’s. The Sky King was thrown the top two furthest distances (15.7 and 15.3 m), followed by the Dart (14.9 m). For the average distance thrown, however, the Harrier flew 9.6% further than the Dart, and the Sky King flew 11.6% further.
Side note: I didn’t break the current world record of 69.14 metres, but you’re free to try. And although the Sky King design is the current record holder for time in the air (29.2 seconds), I didn’t break that record either. Instructions for the Sky King are available here, and the other two planes can easily be found on the internet.