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What are the Differences Between Accelerometers and Tilt Sensors?

Posted on April 2, 2020 Michael Rodriguez Electronics

Oftentimes, the accelerometer of aircraft may be confused with the operations of tilt sensors. Some even assume that an accelerometer can be used in place of a tilt sensor. This confusion between the two instruments is due to some overlapping functionality that each device provides. Nevertheless, accelerometers and tilt sensors are different components that each provide their own capabilities, and understanding these differences is important for correct utilization. In this article, we will discuss the differences between an accelerator and tilt sensor, and the operational functionality of each.


In their most basic functionality, an accelerometer is used to measure and record acceleration rates. Accelerometers may be on a one, two, or three axis model and will measure both the magnitude and direction that the device is accelerating in. Accelerometers are electronic devices, utilizing crystals that become stressed under acceleration forces or measuring changes in capacitance due to acceleration for their measurements depending on their type. Accelerometers also may be used to measure tilt, vibration, and shock. Tilt is measured through the acceleration forces due to Earth’s gravity. Because of this, many people believe that they may be used in lieu of a tilt sensor.
 
Tilt sensors, also referred to as inclinometers, are instruments that may measure the amount of tilting that is present in two axes. Types of tilt sensors include mercury, ball type, and MEMS inclinometers, each varying in accuracy and sensitivity. MEMS inclinometers utilize moving parts, such as gyroscopes, to measure and record sensors. Electrolytic tilt sensors are another inclinometer, measuring tilt through resistive fluids. Tilt sensors may also provide use for applications such as measuring inclines and declines due to their capabilities. The factors that affect the accuracy of a tilt sensor include sensitivity, technology, sensor linearity, and more. When used in an aircraft or similar application, the tilt sensor creates an artificial horizon and then records tilt in regards to the horizon. Tilt sensors boast many benefits, such as high accuracy, cost efficiency, low power consumption, and are fairly compact. While many accelerometers may provide tilt sensing capabilities, only some tilt sensors are able to detect acceleration.
 
Due to the ability to measure tilt, an accelerometer may be used for tilt measurement. As an instrument for measuring tilt, accelerometers are fairly cheap, compact, and are easy to mount and install. Because of this, they may be used in some commercial applications in place of a tilt sensor. Accelerometers do have their downsides as a tilt sensor, however. As the main intention of an accelerometer is to measure acceleration, they are much less accurate than a tilt sensor for such measurements. A more expensive and technologically advanced accelerometer may be used to provide the same capabilities though. Accelerometers also become more unreliable for tilt measurements in applications where there are vibrational forces. With moving parts present, accelerometers may wear faster and face output drift. Due to their disadvantages, using accelerometers as a tilt sensor is not recommended, but is still possible.
 
When it comes time to begin sourcing the accelerometer and tilt sensor parts and components that you need for your next operation or project, look no further than ASAP Parts Unlimited. ASAP Parts Unlimited is owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, and we can help you find the aerospace parts and components you need, new or obsolete. As a premier supplier of parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries, we're always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7x365.

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