What is teminal velocity?

A freely falling object in air (or any other fluid for that matter) experiences two forces: the gravitational force and the force due to air resistance (or drag force).
While the gravitational force depends only on the mass of the object and acceleration due to gravity, for the most part we can consider it remains constant. The drag force on the other hand is a function of the velocity of the object, i.e. the magnitude of this force increases with increase in velocity.
When the object starts to fall the drag force is zero, this means that it only experiences one force that is the gravitational force that pulls it downwards. As the object gains velocity, the drag force gains magnitude and begins to act in the upward direction (i.e. in the direction opposite to the motion). This means that the net force experienced by the object reduces.
Eventually the object attains a velocity such that the drag force is equal in magnitude to the gravitational force, thus making the net force experience by the object zero.
This velocity is known as "terminal" velocity, since a freely falling object cannot fall faster than this.

Rahul S. GCSE Physics tutor, IB Physics tutor, A Level Physics tutor,...

2 years ago

Answered by Rahul, a GCSE Physics tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


PremiumEllie B. GCSE Maths tutor, 11 Plus Maths tutor, A Level Maths tutor, ...
£24 /hr

Ellie B.

Degree: Mathematics (Masters) - York University

Subjects offered:Physics, Maths+ 1 more

Further Mathematics

“I study Maths at York University; I chose York because I loved the lecturers, they made maths fun and easy- that's what I hope to do with all my students!”

£30 /hr

Anuradha D.

Degree: Physics (Masters) - Durham University

Subjects offered:Physics, Music+ 4 more

Further Mathematics
-Personal Statements-

“Hello everyone! My name is Anuradha (you can call me Anu), and I am a Physics Undergrad at Durham. I have always had a “thing” for science and am so pleased to be studying it – and hope that I can give you all the support you need to ...”

£18 /hr

Scott E.

Degree: Computer Science (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered:Physics, Maths+ 1 more


“Maths and Computer Science lover. With a patient, thorough and friendly teaching style.”

About the author

£18 /hr

Rahul S.

Degree: Physics: Nuclear Technology (Masters) - Glasgow University

Subjects offered:Physics, Maths+ 1 more

English Language

“About MeI am an MSc Physics student at the University of Glasgow. Science has been my love for many years now. I love diving in to the depths of a physical system, analysing its workings and breaking it down to the basic concepts of ...”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Other GCSE Physics questions

A heater uses energy from a laptop computer to keep a mug of coffee hot. Energy is transferred to the coffee at the bottom of the mug. Explain how a convection current is set up in the coffee.

A Car of mass 1000kg applies a constant 200N breaking force over a distance of 30m and comes to a complete stop. How fast was the car going the instant the brakes were engaged.

A single wind turbine has a maximum power output of 2 000 000 W. The wind turbine operated continuously at maximum power for 6 hours. Calculate the energy output in kilowatt-hours of the wind turbine.

What is teminal velocity?

View GCSE Physics tutors

We use cookies to improve your site experience. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss