How Do Tilt Sensors Work?

Written by: Bipasha Basu

The tilting sensor is a device used to detect the tilting in several axes of the reference plane. Tilt sensors calculate tilting position with relation to gravity and are used in a variety of applications. They allow easy direction or orientation detection. Similar to mercury switches, they may also be referred to as tilting or rolling ball sensors.

These tools have progressively become more famous and are being applied to a growing range of high-end applications. For instance, the sensors provide useful information on both the vertical and horizontal orientation of the aircraft, which allows the pilot to understand how to deal with obstacles throughout the flight. Knowing the current orientation of the plane, and the angle at which the aircraft is tilted to the surface of the earth, like, stunt pilots, i.e. Red Arrows, can put on an intriguing air show. Tilt sensors are a vital decision-making tool for pilots.


The performance of the tilting sensors is affected by various factors such as gravity, vibration, temperature, zero offset, linearity, cross-axis sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration, vibration, clear line of sight between the consumer and the calculated location, and tilting sensors calibration.

The primary requirements of the tilting sensors include:

1. Several axes

The number of axes is an essential aspect since it varies from device to device. A dual axe tilting sensor is used in robotics. A three-axis tilt sensor is needed for video game controllers and joysticks. Four axes of sensors are used in certain smartphones.

2. Establishing

The minimal inclination measured by the sensor.

3. Responsiveness

The ability of the sensor to respond to slight changes.

4. Measurement range

The vary of orientation that can be monitored by the sensor. Some sensors are used to detect up to 10 °, while others might measure up to 60 °.

5. Sound sensitivity

Noise tends to cause harmonic components in the sensor function, resulting in performance variance and reduced device output. The company’s recommendations on noise levels should be agreed with.

6. Motion

Vibrations can interrupt the sensor user interface, and so friction resistance measurements are needed, mainly when detectors are used in harsh environments, e.g. in off-road vehicles or building sites.

Benefits Of Tilt Sensors

The main benefits of tilting sensors include:

  1. Portable and quick to use
  2. High resolution and precision
  3. Quite cost-efficient
  4. Low energy consumption
  5. Can be read by industry norm data logger

Sensor Types

Sensors are classified into several types:

  1. Sensor to detect light
  2. Sensor of heat
  3. Sensor for gas
  4. Sensor for humidity
  5. Ultrasound Detector
  6. Sensor of movement
  7. Sensor of Strength
  8. Sensor analogue

Digital sensor to be used

  1. Sensor for Colour
  2. Sensor for range
  3. Detector of distance
  4. Ultrasound Detector
  5. Thermal Sensor
  6. Sensor for Tension
  7. Sensor infrared
  8. Sensor for robots

Principle of Function

The tilting detector has a metal ball built to shift the two pins of the device from the ‘on’ position to the ‘off’ position, and vice versa if the sensor exceeds the predetermined angle. Tilt sensors are the eco-sustainable variant of a mercury change.

Tilt Sensor Circuit 

Necessary components for the tilting sensor circuit:

Whenever the unit gains power and is in its standing posture, the rollerball is positioned at the base of the sensor to form an electromagnetic link between the two end nodes of the sensor. Next, the circuit then becomes a short circuit, and the LED receives enough current. If the circuit is tilted in such a way that the rolling ball does not rest at the base of the sensor with the electrical transport direction, the connection will be opened. This is the operation of the circuit.


Primary applications of tilting sensors are as follows:

  • Track the position at which the cell phone or laptop is held to auto-rotate
  • Detecting the location of hand-held gaming devices and gaming consoles
  • Signify the roll of ships, automobiles and aeroplanes
  • To adjust the distance at which the satellite antenna ‘looks’ towards the spacecraft.
  • Guesstimate the height of a tree or a structure
  • Evaluate the thickness of the ski slope
  • Also, provide an alert device for the ground tilting angle of cryogenic liquids during shipment.
  • Track laser levels and seismic events

Forms of tilt sensor

These sensors are categorised into various categories, and the identification of these sensors involves a range of tilting, slope, elevation and inclination measuring devices and innovations.

Sensor for Force Balance

These sensors are referenced gravity detectors and are intended to be used for DC momentum measurements such as ships, vehicles, aircraft and seismicity. These sensors are also used in inclinometers and tilt metres. The force balance sensors are capable of measuring 0.0001 g to 200 g, and the frequency range is from DC to 1000Hz. The benefits of these detectors include their high precision, an improvement in overall calculation, insensitivity to temperature improvement and good accuracy. Its high cost is the downside of this sensor.

MEMs sensor

MEMS are small detectors as they comprise of movable mass sheets connected to the reference frame using a mechanical suspension device. This is a process of integrating mechanical and electrical elements together on a chip to create a miniature dimension system. Tiny means the measurements are smaller than the thickness of human hair. MEMS sensors are significant components for many medical, industrial, aerospace, product and automobile industries. These sensors are used in everything from smartphones, gaming, medical tests and satellites. Steps to the manufacture of MEMS include the necessary process of IC manufacturing.

Electrolytic sensor 

The electrolytic sensor is used to calculate the angle, and the angle can be represented in degrees, minutes of arc or seconds of arc. Electrolytic sensors provide incredibly precise pitch calculations in a variety of applications. These sensors easily retain their high precision and small size. These devices utilise by using a fluid-filled cavity or glass. The fluid operates between a typical favourable and a negative terminal. When the electrolytic sensor is levelled, both positive and negative electrodes are continuously immersed in the liquid and provide a stable signal production. When the sensor is rotated, the imbalance between the metal conductors is formed. Thus, the inequality of any one of the electrodes is equal to the angular of rotation.

Capable Tilt Sensors

These types of sensors are intended to take contact-free inclination and tilt measurements. They can act both as smart devices and sensors. As the design of the capacitor is modified, the capacitor sensor depends on the variance of the resistor. Here, the capacitive sensing is free of the basic material. These modules contain tension beams, comb-drive capacitors and a central test mass. As a tilt happens, the central mass shifts towards one of the combs such that the capacitor rises on one side and reduces on the other. The significant benefit of the capacitive sensor is its output ratio and cost-effectiveness, while a small answer is the considerable drawback of the capacitive sensor.

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