A digital inclinometer is a device for measuring the tilt angle of an object relative to gravity. It has many applications in transportation systems, including aircraft, ships, and as a part of security systems in some automobiles. They are also commonly incorporated into heavy construction equipment as a safety mechanism, and can be used in recreational pursuits such as cross country biking. Other uses include in surveying equipment, and in orienting satellite dishes and solar panels for optimum reception of a signal or light source.
The aircraft inclinometer creates what is known as an artificial horizon, and sensors then monitor deviations from this based on gravitational pull. Early versions of the technology in aircraft were based on the movement of contained fluids in respect to gravitational pull that were displayed in a readout, but most are now digital inclinometer designs. Though there are a wide array of applications for the digital inclinometer in general, even including as tilt sensors in video game controllers, the use of them in aircraft is most critical. They provide information on whether a plane is moving level to land and whether it is drifting up or down at an angle due to changing weather or aircraft control conditions. Often at night or in bad weather, pilots are forced to rely entirely on readouts from altimeters and digital inclinometers to safely navigate a plane to its destination.
The off-road inclinometer or bicycle inclinometer often falls back to the earlier bubble-and-fluid design for indicating slope. This is due to the fact that these models can be made compactly and don't require a power source for remote operation. They are designed to indicate upward or downward slopes of around 21°, and can weigh less than one ounce (30 grams). They mount on a handlebar, and the readout is best viewed when not in rough terrain or conditions where the angle of ascent or descent changes rapidly.
Other adaptations of the digital inclinometer include the satellite inclinometer for satellite dish reception, which often incorporates a compass and yields highly precise values. These sophisticated digital inclinometer versions are used in forestry and surveying as well, and are built to be attached to both tripods and cameras. Other advanced applications include in structural geology as a mining inclinometer or to measure ground movement from volcanoes and earthquakes in seismology.
The medical inclinometer is another form of handheld digital inclinometer that is used to measure range of motion in joints. They are a useful aid in both physical therapy for tracking the progress of recovering patients, and in sports training. By placing the device against a joint and moving it through its functional range, the movement can then be compared against the normal range of movement or previous levels measured in the patient.