Paper Helicopter Experiment

The Most Educative Design of Experiments Project

Comprehensive guide to paper helicopter design and step-by-step template assembly instructions.

Learn how to make a paper helicopter that flies and explore how varying material, wing length, body dimensions, and other design parameters could potentially influence your paper helicopter's ability to fall slowly.

Paper helicopter design

Hover over the image or table to explore the various parts of the paper helicopter template. A summary of these components is provided in Table 1, while a detailed explanation can be found in the PAPER HELICOPTER DESIGN EXPLAINED section below.

paper helicopter template
# Factors Parameters
1 Material Wing width
2 Wing length Middle body height
3 Body length Fold offset
4 Body width Fold tilt
5 Paper clips Body layers
6 Folded wings Tape width
7 Taped body Spin direction
8 Taped wings Print labels
Table 1:Paper helicopter template measurements. Hover over the cells to explore the various parts.

Paper helicopter template assembly instructions

  1. Put reinforcement tape, if needed.
  2. Cut along solid lines.
  3. Fold along dotted lines.
  4. Attach paper clip(s).

Note that it's more convenient to attach the reinforcement tape before cutting as it simplifies the assembly process. Additionally, the orientation of the blades and blade tips is crucial for optimal performance - ensure that the "Top Side" mark appears on top of the blade and the blade tips point upwards.

Paper helicopter design explained


plays a crucial role in the aerodynamics and overall performance of the paper helicopter. The choice between lighter materials like thin paper or transparencies and heavier ones like card stock or firm paper can significantly affect the helicopter's weight, balance, and flight behavior. Lighter materials may allow for a slower descent and more extended flight times, while heavier materials might offer better control and stability in flight. Besides, the material's elasticity and friction coefficients can also impact how the helicopter responds to air currents and how it behaves during flight. CHC Paper Helicopters primarily utilize standard high-quality A4 paper with the right balance of density and firmness, marked with 'X'. However, exploring alternative materials like transparencies or ultra-light plastic, marked with 'Y', opens up possibilities for further experimentation and discovery in the quest for optimal flight performance.

Wing length

(or rotor blade length) is a crucial parameter influencing the paper helicopter's flight characteristics. Shorter blades tend to reduce drag, facilitating higher rotation speeds, which in turn enhances the balance and stability during flight. Conversely, longer wings are better suited for tasks requiring heavy lifting or desiring a slow, gliding descent, as they provide greater lift at the expense of increased drag.

Body length

influences the position of the paper helicopter's center of mass, which in turn affects its flight stability and balance.

Body width

affects the load capacity of the paper helicopter, with a wider body potentially allowing for more weight to be carried, but also impacting the flight characteristics.

Paper clips

are crucial for maintaining the paper helicopter's balance. At least one paper clip should be securely attached to the end of the paper helicopter body as indicated by the markings.

Folded wings

are shaped by the "Fold offset" and "Fold tilt" parameters, see below, which define the contour of the paper helicopter's blade tips.

Taped body

indicates if reinforcement with scotch tape is needed for the paper helicopter body.

Taped wings

indicates if the blades of the paper helicopter require reinforcement using scotch tape.

Wing width

(or rotor blade width) is another vital parameter impacting the paper helicopter's aerodynamic behavior. A wider wing provides more surface area, which can generate greater lift, making the helicopter more buoyant during its descent. However, this increased lift comes at the cost of higher drag, which can slow down the helicopter's rotational speed. Conversely, a narrower wing has less drag and may spin faster, but provides less lift, potentially leading to a quicker descent. The optimal wing width may vary depending on the specific flight goals, such as achieving a slower descent or a steadier flight path.

Middle body height

represents the height of the paper helicopter's "cabin", ensuring enough space for our imaginary pilots and passengers to enjoy their flight adventures comfortably.

Fold offset

affects the horizontal positioning of the paper helicopter blade tip, altering the tip's alignment relative to the blade base.

Fold tilt

adjusts the vertical angle of the paper helicopter blade tip, influencing the tip's orientation relative to the blade base.

Body layers

- choose to cut if body layers is set to 1, or fold if body layers is set to 3. We recommend a single body layer, unless there's technical capability to ensure a firm and consistent fold, resulting in a rigid structure with favorable aerodynamic characteristics.

Tape width

is usually 1, 3/4, 1/2 or 1/3 inches.

Spin direction

of the paper helicopter is determined by the configuration of its blades. When the left blade is folded towards the front side of the Middle Body, it results in a clockwise rotation of the rotor, whereas folding the right blade towards the front induces a counterclockwise rotation. To ensure correct assembly and orientation, a "Top Side" mark is provided on the helicopter template. This mark serves as an indicator, and when assembled properly, it should be positioned on top of the blade, making it a straightforward reference for verifying the blade configuration and consequently, the spin direction of the rotor.

Print labels

is a mandatory setting which ensures that the paper helicopter templates are printed with essential markings such as the Manufacturer's website, Batch ID, and Helicopter ID, facilitating easy identification and retrieval of detailed information (i.e. dimentions, material, time and place of manufacturing and so on) about each paper helicopter from the paper helicopter factory database.
  1. Manufacturer - link to the website, It's imperative to note that if similar templates are found elsewhere, with or without these specified markings, there may be a suspicion of theft or unauthorized reproduction, which would likely constitute a violation of intellectual property rights. We urge users to get in touch with us should they come across such violations, see the About page.
  2. Batch ID - this number is assigned at the paper helicopter factory upon order placement.
  3. Helicopter ID - the last two digits of the paper helicopter's serial number. A paper helicopter ID is unique within a batch (since each order consists of at most 25 helicopters). Paper helicopter ID can be used e.g. for trials randomization.

Disclaimer:The descriptions provided for the various components of the paper helicopter template, such as wing length, wing width, and especially the body height (referred to as the "cabin"), are designed to infuse a sense of complexity and imagination into the task at hand. While some factors have a physical basis, others, like the notion of a cabin providing space for pilots, are used metaphorically to engage the reader. The objective of the exercise is to explore the potential impact of these factors on the paper helicopter's flight time through the use of design of experiments methodology. The real-world physical interpretations of some factors may not align perfectly with the descriptions provided, and part of the project's challenge lies in understanding and optimizing these factors or combinations of these factors to achieve optimal performance.