Inclinometers and tilt sensors

Inclinometers and tilt sensors are used in a wide range of settings in order to measure the angle of an inclination or slope, based on the gravity. The use of these devices has a number of benefits, including a high resistance to temperature extremes, vibration and shocks, which enable them to be used in a variety of environments and provide accurate measurements.

What Are Inclinometers and Tilt Sensors?

Inclinometers can also be referred to as tilt sensors, slope sensors or clinometers, but they all perform the same function. They are needed in many industries and sectors to calculate an object’s angle in relation to the gravitational force. The meters work out the roll angle or pitch of the object and then output the values through the necessary electrical interface.

The devices are used in many different applications, including in the aviation, marine, civil engineering, transportation and military sectors, to perform tasks such as platform levelling, slope angle measurement and boom angle indication.

How Are Inclinometers Used?

Inclinometers calculate an object’s angle by the use of an accelerometer, which assesses the effect that gravity has on a small mass that is fitted inside an elasticated support structure.

As the device is tilted, this mass moves a small amount, which results in an alteration in the capacitance between the supporting structure and the mass. The measured capacitances then provide the calculation for the tilt angle.

These devices can be used in a simple form in common products, such as car airbags and motion sensors in mobile phones. However, they also have far more technical specifications that require a high degree of accuracy, including the use of submersible tilt sensors in underwater vehicles, such as those available at

Used in a Variety of Situations

One of the main benefits of inclinometers and tilt sensors is how widespread their use is, and they can be advantageous in a variety of sectors, including medical technology, solar tracking systems and mobile automation.

They are useful within medical technology because of the high level of resistance they have to X-ray radiation. The majority of X-ray systems, as well as MRI and CT scanners, use an extremely accurate inclinometer to measure a radiation arm’s adjustment.

Mobile automation fields are also an important area for the use of inclinometers, which can measure a backhoe bucket or excavator arm’s inclination. These devices can be utilised to determine the position of a fire engine’s operating platform basket or how level construction machinery is on uneven or rough surfaces.

They are particularly beneficial in these areas because of their resistance to vibration and shock, especially in comparison to an optical rotary encoder, as well as high temperatures and condensation. Inclinometers also can’t suffer from wear and tear as there aren’t any mechanical parts, and they can be fitted on the exterior of the pivot point.


In order to accurately measure an object’s angle, the inclinometer will examine a number of specifications. These include the sensor cycle time, which is the base sensor’s internal cycle time, and the interface cycle time (this is the cycle time at which the communication interface transmits the position value). The interface cycle time, unlike the sensory cycle time, can be altered by the user.

The inclinometer works out the absolute accuracy, which is the worst-case difference from the position that is measured compared to the actual position, and the offset error – the small error that accounts for the slight deviation when it’s set at zero.

The dynamic accuracy is measured like the absolute accuracy, apart from the fact that it’s also exposed to accelerations and vibrations from external sources. They will also take into account the resolution, which is the smallest step that is possible, and the hysteresis. The hysteresis for an inclinometer is that the measured tilt angle will be based on its past position, as there will be a small difference when it is tilted.

The final specifications that are calculated by an inclinometer are the temperature gradient, which is the alteration in a tilt angle when the temperature changes, and the setting time – the time needed by the inclinometer signal to reach and maintain its final position to within 5%.

Advances in technology are enabling inclinometers to be manufactured that are considerably more accurate than in the past, which allows more reliable measurements to be taken, even in the most extreme of environments, including rough terrain and underwater. Rather than being simply used in more technical specifications, inclinometers have entered the mass market, with reductions in cost and improvements in technology creating an excellent measuring tool.