In its basic sense, a parachute is neither made for travel and sports, it was created to increase safety while descending from a certain altitude. It is a medium to delay the pull of gravity from earth when deployed form higher altitude.
In short, it makes the dropping of an item, a person or equipment vertically or diagonally slower by reducing the amount of dragging force while maintaining a balance so that the item would remain safe until it reaches the ground. Early physicists have made use of this principle and newer develops in parachuting technology led to the creation of various types of parachutes.
Early types of parachutes
Parasol type- Though not strictly called parachutes, the parasols were commonly used by performers in China to create a slow falling effect onstage.
Conical parachute Possibly the earliest form of parachute is the conical shaped-parachute which appeared during 1470s in Italy preceding the design conceptualized by Leonardo da Vinci. As an escape device, this type of parachute was intended to allow people to get safely on the ground from burning buildings. However, there are no written records whether this parachute was ever used for that purpose.
Pyramid Parachute Another design by Leonardo da Vinci, this parachute was conceptualized in Milan during the early part of 1480. It was a canopy that is supported by light wood held by a square bottom frame.
Pack-style parachute This is the predecessor of all parachutes that are stored in casings these days.
Round parachutes A basic drag device, round parachute is used in various settings like medical missions, cargo applications and military operations. While being described commonly as round in shape, the parachute actually resembles a dome or a jellyfish. This has been among the most popular type however; present-day parachutists dont normally use this kind of parachute.
The earliest round parachutes were circulars with flat surfaces that made them unstable, thus causing a number of deaths and injuries on parachutists. To add more stability, military round parachutes were made parabolic or conical in shape.
There are two types of round parachutes- steerable and non-steerable. Like ram-air parachutes, non-steerable parachutes can’t be maneuvered to intended direction thus this type glides only to the direction of the wind lending no control to the parachutists. However, steering is provided through cutting large holes in the edges giving relatively partial forward speed.
Square parachutes The cruciform design helps reduce oscillation. It is commonly used today by sport skydivers.
Ram-air parachutes For better control of speed and direction, ram-air parachutes allow the canopies to self-inflate. Like standard paragliders, ram-air parachutes are designed to hold, spread and lessen the tension of parachute deployment on terminal velocity.
Ribbon/Ring Parachute Specifically designed for supersonic speeds where ordinary parachutes would break down, this type often has a hole in the middle of the canopy to lessen the pressure as the parachute reaches the ground.
On some designs, the ring of the canopy is broken into a number of ribbons that are connected by ropes so as to allow more air to pass. The leaks in between the ribbons will diminish the pressure on the parachute so that breaking or shredding of the canopy is prevented.
These various types of parachutes are made according to the use they have and some are according to the technology the inventors had during their time.