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Motion of projectile on an incline can be studied in terms of a new pair of coordinate axes with x-axis along the incline and y-axis along perpendicular to the incline.

Projectile motion on an incline plane is one of the various projectile motion types. The main distinguishing aspect is that points of projection and return are not on the same horizontal plane. There are two possibilities : (i) the point of return is at a higher level than the point of projection i.e projectile is thrown up the incline and (ii) Point of return is at a lower level than point of projection i.e. projectile is thrown down the incline.

Projection on the incline

Projection up the incline
Projection down the incline

We have so far studied the projectile motion, using technique of component motions in two mutually perpendicular directions – one which is horizontal and the other which is vertical. We can simply extend the methodology to these types of projectile motion types as well. Alternatively, we can choose coordinate axes along the incline and in the direction of perpendicular to the incline. The analysis of projectile motion in two coordinate systems differs in the detail of treatment.

For convenience of comparison, we shall refer projectile motion on a horizontal surface as the “normal case”. The reference to “normal case” enables us to note differences and similarities between “normal case” and the case of projectile motion on an incline plane.

Analyzing alternatives

As pointed out, there are two different approaches of analyzing projectile motion on an incline plane. The first approach could be to continue analyzing motion in two mutually perpendicular horizontal and vertical directions. The second approach could be to analyze motion by changing the reference orientation i.e. we set up our coordinate system along the incline and a direction along the perpendicular to incline.

The analysis alternatives are, therefore, distinguished on the basis of coordinate system that we choose to employ :

  • planar coordinates along incline (x) and perpendicular to incline (y)
  • planar coordinates in horizontal (x) and vertical (y) directions

Coordinate systems

With reference to incline
With reference to horizontal

The two alternatives, as a matter of fact, are entirely equivalent. However, we shall study both alternatives separately for the simple reason that they provide advantage in analyzing projectile motion in specific situation.

Projection up the incline

As pointed out, the projection up the incline can be studied in two alternative ways. We discuss each of the approach, highlighting intricacies of each approach in the following sub-section.

Coordinates along incline (x) and perpendicular to incline (y)

This approach is typically superior approach in so far as it renders measurement of time of flight in a relatively simpler manner. However, before we proceed to analyze projectile motion in this new coordinate set up, we need to identify and understand attributes of motion in mutually perpendicular directions.

Measurement of angle of projection is one attribute that needs to be handled in a consistent manner. It is always convenient to follow certain convention in referring angles involved. We had earlier denoted the angle of projection as measured from the horizontal and denoted the same by the symbol “θ”. It is evident that it would be reasonable to extend the same convention and also retain the same symbol for the angle of projection.

Questions & Answers

A stone propelled from a catapult with a speed of 50ms-1 attains a height of 100m. Calculate the time of flight, calculate the angle of projection, calculate the range attained
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Source:  OpenStax, Physics for k-12. OpenStax CNX. Sep 07, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10322/1.175
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