How Does an Inclinometer Work?

Posted on June 28, 2022 Josh Parker Aviation Products

Inclinometers are known by many names, so you might be familiar with these instruments as clinometers, gradiometers, tilt indicators, or slope gauges. As indicated by the name, tilt indicators are used to measure angles of slope/tilt and elevation/depression of an object with respect to gravity. Across various industries, inclinometers are beneficial in many applications, including aviation purposes. For your greater understanding, this blog will explore the functions of and different uses for inclinometers.

Inclinometer systems comprise the inclinometer measurement system and its casing. The casing provides contact for sub-surface measurements, while its grooves control the orientation of the inclinometer sensor and provide a uniform surface for measurements. The casing is then attached directly to a surface; for example, in aircraft, the inclinometer is attached to the pilot’s instrument board in the cockpit. Depending on the application, inclinometers depend on either a spirit vial or a gravity-actuated pendulum/related indicator. Those that use spirit vials rely on fluid-filled containers, while those that use pendulums or similar objects rely on gravity acting on the item to indicate slope or elevation.

Despite having only two relatively simple designs, inclinometers can work in combination with various technologies to offer specific readings. One example is an electronic inclinometer, which enables very precise readings of angles by using an internal gyroscope to measure the direction of gravitational pull. Similar to the needle on a compass, the gyroscope remains in the same position regardless of its orientation. A solid object is placed along the gyroscope and the angle determined by the inclinometer and displayed on an electronic readout. A similar model is the mercury inclinometer which functions the same to produce measurements but relies on mercury liquid rather than a gyroscope to produce readings.

Also referred to as gas bubble types, manual inclinometers are another widely available design. These older instruments contain a glass tube with liquid and an air bubble inside. As the instrument moves, the bubble stays level. Its position indicates the incline angle on a scale. The last popular model we will discuss is the gravity inclinometer. One of the more practical designs on the market comprises a rotating scale and fixed pointers. The scale is driven by an internal pendulum weight fastened to the back and suspended from a bearing. There are two buttons on the instrument that can be pressed so as to lock the scale firmly in place to enable easy reading. This instrument is considered to be a sturdier and more practical design because whatever the orientation, the weight is kept down by gravity, while the scale moves.

Some key applications for these devices include aviation, civil, and engineering purposes. For example, they can be used to determine latitude with reference to Polaris, the angle of the Earth's magnetic field with respect to the horizontal plane, and the optimal positioning of solar panels to maximize output. They also offer applications across geology, geophysics, and healthcare sectors. Despite their relatively simple designs, inclinometers have improved countless industries.

Inclinometer deflection devices comprise a servo cable, cable reel, accelerometer probe, and a digital readout unit. All attachment devices should be checked prior to use, including lubricating the wheels, capping cable connectors, and using an O-ring to provide a water-tight seal between the probe and the cable.

Just NSN parts is a leading online distributor of inclinometer parts and other items for various military and civil applications. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we boast access to an inventory of over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find parts from reliable manufacturers around the globe. Operating with a strict NO CHINA sourcing policy, in tandem with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation, we are equipped to manage the logistics, sourcing, shipping, and handling of your purchases. Kick-off the parts procurement process today by submitting an RFQ form to receive an Instant Quote on any item. For further questions, our team of experts is available around-the-clock to answer your calls and emails.

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