Have you ever wondered how a plane avoids obstacles while in the air? The complicated circuitry of modern aircraft consists of sophisticated tilt sensors that feed information into the plane’s computer about the aircraft’s inclination. As such, the pilot can make an accurate calculation on how to move the plane to avoid such obstacles. Apart from aeroplanes, tilt sensors also play a significant role as a safety feature for off-road vehicles and other instruments used for aviation.
A tilt sensor or any sensor for that matter reacts to an external output such as an object’s movement, temperature, pressure, or presence of moisture. There are many classifications of sensors suitable for various applications. This article focuses on tilt sensors and their working principle, function, and implementation.
How does a tilt sensor work?
The essential components of a tilt sensor are a rolling ball and a conductive plate below it. When electricity is applied to the device, the ball falls and connects electronically with the conductive plate. When the sensor is in a tilted position, the ball breaks its connection with the conductive plate preventing current from flowing to both ends of the terminal.
When the sensor is upright, the ball connects the device to both ends of the electrical circuit allowing current to flow through. Losing the connection between the circuit and the rolling ball by tilting the device opens the circuit.
Different types of tilt sensors
Tilt sensors also fall into different categories, and each category also refers to a unique device used in measuring slope, tilt, and inclination.
- Force balance sensors. This type of tilt sensor is referenced with gravitational force and is typically installed in vehicles, ships, and aircraft to measure tilt and inclination. Force balance sensors are highly accurate and are not sensitive to changes in temperature. The drawback, however, is that this type of sensors is costlier than other options.
- MEMS sensors. This is a more compact type of tilt sensor which is found in many medical devices and consumer electronics. You can find MEMS sensors in gaming consoles, mobile phones, and even satellites.
- Fluid-filled transducers. There are two types of fluid-filled sensors used today: electrolytic and capacitive. An electrolytic sensor measures angles, while capacitive tilt sensors, on the other hand, use a non-contact technology to measure inclination.
Tilt sensor selection depends on a variety of factors such as the sensor’s resolution, output type, sensitivity, measurement range, noise tolerance, and the number of axes.
Tilt sensor applications
To understand how tilt sensors work, here are some specific areas of use:
- Video game consoles
- Robotic technology
- Construction equipment and industrial machinery
- Aviation flight control
- Car airbags
- Car security system
- Video cameras and mobile phones
There are many other applications and practical uses of tilt sensors not mentioned in this article. The technical aspects of sensors are usually reserved for process and automation engineers. This necessary information on tilt sensors aims to provide an overview of how this device shapes many well-known technologies that are useful in daily life or that are important for indirect, yet vital functions.