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# Hwa Chong Institution

Integrated Programme
Secondary 2 Mathematics

## Objective : • Acquire basic concepts of angle of elevation and angle of

depression (level 1)

## • Solve word problems involving angle of elevation and angle of

depression (level 2)

## • Solve Ancient Chinese Problems using trigonometry and

simultaneous equations (level 3)

Angle of Elevation

The angle of elevation of an object, as seen by an observer, is the angle made by the
line of sight of the object and the horizontal. (as shown above)

## In the above example, the angle of elevation of the object is α ° .

Angle of Depression

If the object is at a lower height compared to the observer, then the angle between the
horizontal and the observer's line of sight is called the angle of depression.

## Adapted from Math Resources (KKP & LYH) Page 1

Examples

1. From the point where Jane is standing, the angle of elevation of a flag post is 58.0° . If
Jane is 5m away from the flag post, what is the height of the flag post?

58.0°
5m
Answer: Let the height of the flag post be x .

opp x
tan ( 58.0°=
) =

= ( 58.0° ) 8.00m
x 5 tan =

2. A submarine is 30km above the bed of the sea. The submarine is 80km from a
shipwreck. Calculate the angle of depression that the submarine should be directed to

30km 80km

Answer: Let the angle of depression the ship makes with the wreck be α ° .

 opp  −1  30 
α=° sin −1  =  sin  =  22.0°
 hyp   80 

## Therefore, the angle of depression is 22.0° .

Practice

1. A pillar of height 32m casts a shadow of 28m long. Find the measure of the angle of
elevation of the sun.

2. The angle of depression from a security camera 10m meters above the ground, to a
spot on the ground is 38.0° . How far away is the spot from the security camera?

3. The angle of elevation from a boat to the top of a lighthouse is 54.0° the lighthouse
is 23m tall. How far from the base of the lighthouse is the boat?

4. A shark lurking 50m away from a swimmer at the surface of the water. If the horizontal
distance between the swimmer and the shark is 40m, what is the angle of elevation from
the shark to the swimmer?

Inclinometers

## To measure the angle of elevation (or angle of depression) of an object, an instrument

called an inclinometer is usually used.

It is possible to make your own inclinometer by using a straw and protractors. There are
many websites and Youtube videos with clear instructions on how these inclinometers

The following activity requires you to make your own inclinometer and use it to find the
height of an object.

Activity

Alvin wonders what the height of the HCI clock tower is. Having learnt trigonometry from
his mathematics class, he decides to apply his trigonometry knowledge to find out what
is the height of the clock tower.

First, he walks on the 100m track to see how many steps it takes for him to walk 100m.
By doing so, he finds out the distance he covers when he takes 1 step.

He walks from the base of the HCI clock tower toward the Tan Kah Kee statue and
notes down how many steps he took. Using this information, and the knowledge of the
distance he covers in 1 step, he manages to find out the distance between the base of
the clock tower and the statue.

Finally, he uses his homemade inclinometer to measure the angle of elevation of the
clock tower from next to the statue.

Using all the information that he has attained, he then heads back to his classroom to
work out what is the height of the clock tower.

estimation of the height of the clock tower. You may make minor changes to the
methods that Alvin has used to improve the accuracy of your estimation.

Use diagrams to explain how you estimated the height of the clock tower.

## Adapted from Math Resources (KKP & LYH) Page 3

Word Problems

Example
A man observes the angle of elevation of the top of a
h
mountain to be 50°. He walks 1000 m nearer and
finds the angle of elevation to be 60°. Find the height 50° 60°
of the mountain. 1000 x
Solution 1:
Let the height of the mountain be h m and the 2nd observation point be x m from the
mountain.
h
tan 60° = ⇒ h = x tan 60° …(1)
x
h
tan 50° = ⇒ h = 1000 tan 50° + x tan 50° …(2)
1000 + x
(1) = (2)
∴ x tan 60° = 1000 tan 50° + x tan 50°
⇒ x tan 60° – x tan 50° = 1000 tan 50°
⇒ x (tan 60° – tan 50°) = 1000 tan 50°
1000 tan50°
⇒x=
tan60° − tan50°
substitute into (1)
1000 tan50° tan60°
⇒ h = x tan 60° = ≈ 3820 m (3 s.f.)
tan60° − tan50°

Solution 2:
In this solution, the angles of elevation are converted to other angles in the diagram.
This results in fewer steps needed to solve the problem.
x
tan 30° = ⇒ x = h tan 30° …(1)
h 10° 30°
1000 + x
tan 40° = ⇒ 1000 + x = h tan 40° …(2) h
h
substitute (1) into (2):
1000 x
∴ 1000 + h tan 30° = h tan 40°
⇒ 1000 = h tan 40° – h tan 30°
⇒ 1000 = h (tan 40° – tan 30°)
1000
⇒h= ≈ 3820 m (3 s.f.)
tan 40° − tan30°

## Adapted from Math Resources (KKP & LYH) Page 4

Exercise Correct all inexact answers to 1 d.p. (angles) or 3 s.f. (others).

1. Danny sees a balloon that is 30 m above the ground. If the angle of elevation
from Danny to the balloon is 75°, how far from Danny is the balloon? [31.1m]

2. An airplane flying at a speed of 140 m/s begins to climb at an angle of 10°. What
is the increase in altitude over the next 15 s? [365 m]

3. When an airplane is descending to land, the angle of depression is 5°. When the
plane has a reading of 30 m on the altimeter, what is its distance from
touchdown? [343 m]

4. At a point 65 m from the base of a cliff, the top of the cliff is seen through an
angle of elevation of 37°. How tall is the cliff? [49.0 m]

## 5. From a cliff, a person observes an automobile through an angle of depression of

23°. If the cliff is 25 m high, how far is the automobile from (i) the person, (ii) the
base of the cliff? [64.0 m, 58.9 m]

6. A man 35 m above the ground and observing from the window of a building finds
that two cars in front of the building and in line with the building have angles of
depression of 54° and 38° respectively. Find the distance between the two cars.
[19.4 m]

7. A tower stands on top of a cliff. At a distance of 60 m from the foot of the cliff
which is at ground level, the angles of elevation of the top of the tower as well as
the top of the cliff are 65° and 53° respectively. Find the height of (i) the tower,
(ii) the cliff. [49.0 m, 79.6 m]

8. A statue stands on top of a tall platform. A man observes that the angles of
elevation, of the base and of the top of the statue, at a point 28 m from the base
of the platform, are 55° and 70° respectively. Find the height of the statue.
[36.9 m]

## 9. From a point C on Mount Faber, the angle of depression of a point A at

HarbourFront and a point B on Sentosa Island are 67° and 37° respectively.
Points A, B and C lie on a vertical plane with A and B at sea level and C 500 m
above sea level. Calculate the distance between A and B. [451 m]

## Adapted from Math Resources (KKP & LYH) Page 5

Assignment Correct all inexact answers to 1 d.p. (angles) or 3 s.f. (others).

## 1. A kite is flying at an angle of elevation of 67° from a point on the ground. If 30 m

of kite string is out, how far is the kite above the ground? [27.6 m]

2. A 18.6 m-high tree is 27.5 m away from a boy. Calculate (i) the angle of
elevation of the top of the tree and (ii) the angle of depression of the base of the
tree, as observed by the boy whose eye is 1.7 m above the ground.
[31.6°, 3.5°]
3. A person stands at the window of a building so that his eyes are 12.6 m above
the level ground in the vicinity of the building. An object is 58.5 m away from the
building on a line directly beneath the person. Compute the angle of depression
of the object on the ground. [12.2°]
4. A ship at a point P observes that the angle of elevation of a point T of a cliff is
32°. It sailed for 180 m towards the cliff to reach a point Q and observes that the
angle of elevation of the point T becomes 48°. Calculate the height of the cliff.
[257 m]

5. When a helicopter hovers 350 m above the water, its pilot notices a man in a life
boat through an angle of depression of 28°. Along a straight line, a rescue boat
can also be seen through an angle of depression of 14°. Given that the rescue
boat travels at a speed of 15 m/s, how long will it take for the rescue boat to
reach the lifeboat? [49.7 s]

## Ancient Chinese Problem

The following problem can be solved by using simultaneous equations. Though the original
solution by the author uses purely arithmetic method, you may apply trigonometry to solve it.

P1 and P2 are two vertical poles each of length 3 zhang and they are placed 1000 bu
apart on level ground. When viewed from X at ground level, a point 123 bu behind P1, the
peak, S, of an island is in line with the top of P1. Similarly when viewed from Y at ground
level, a point 127 bu behind P2, the peak of the island is in line with the top of P2.
Calculate the height of the island and its distance from P1. (1 li ＝180 zhang, 1 zhang = 10
chi, 1 bu = 6 chi)