What Are Aircraft Sensors and Their Common Types?

Since the advent of aircraft, a great number of improvements have been made to flight instruments and the avionic system, allowing for pilots in the cockpit to have better control and awareness for flight efficiency and safety. With advanced electronic aircraft sensors and electronic systems, pilots are provided with control, navigation, and monitoring that assist in various operations for both civil and defense applications. In this blog, we will provide an overview of what aircraft sensors are, as well as the various common types that are implemented in modern aircraft.

From communication to collision warning systems, avionic systems cover a diverse set of needs for pilots to accommodate for many situations. With sensors, flight instruments can perform with precision and accuracy, ensuring the ease of flight for the pilot. Instruments come in many shapes and forms as well, including those such as pressure gauges, radar systems, altimeters, vertical speed indicators, fuel-quantity gauges, and much more. With such instruments, pilots can always be aware of flight and aircraft conditions in real time, allowing them to conduct actions and precautions in order to avoid accidents and improve efficiency.

To operate instruments and relay data to the pilot, aircraft computer systems process the inputs they receive from sensors, and then transmit the data to the pilot for use. To ensure that the data that the pilot receives is accurate, the aircraft computer system will compensate for various factors. For a pilot to properly command a standard commercial aircraft, thousands of sensors are needed. While such aircraft sensors and flight instrument types may vary from aircraft to aircraft, there are some common sensors that are often implemented in most aircraft to serve important purposes.

When operating bleed air and fuel systems, it is always crucial that an optimal amount of fluid is transferred and supplied for use. To monitor the amount of lubrication oil or liquid coolant fuel that is present within a system, flow sensors are used. Similar to the flow sensor, pressure sensors are also critical for measuring the properties of fluids, and such aircraft sensors assist hydraulic systems and other components. With a pressure sensor, a pilot can ensure that hydraulic systems provide enough pressure as to enact braking, landing gear deployment and retraction, and more. Furthermore, a pressure sensor may also assist in monitoring heating and cooling fluids, oxygen tanks, and engine oil.

As aircraft often operate in extreme temperature environments and may utilize combustion in order to burn fuel, monitoring the temperature of aircraft parts and fluids is also extremely important. A temperature sensor may be implemented within an aircraft to monitor the temperature of areas such as environmental cooling systems, hydraulic oils, refrigerants, and more. To achieve such results, bi-metallic temperature gauges, radiometers, thermometers, thermocouples, or other temperature gauging instruments may be used.

With a flight instrument such as altimers or the airspeed indicator, pilots can be aware of flight conditions that aid safety measures and efficiency. With the altimeter, changes in static air pressure are measured by the instrument in order to relay the altitude to the pilots in the cockpit. With an airspeed indicator, on the other hand, static pressure, pitot tube data, and temperature measurements are utilized in order to determine the true air speed that the aircraft is traveling at.

With avionic system components such as gyroscopes and tachometers, pilots can further their flight awareness for safety. With a gyroscope, the turning and attitude of the aircraft is measured, as well as the direction indication. Tachometers, on the other hand, are useful for the measurement of the engine RPM. Within turbine engines, tachometers may detect adjustments in magnetic field flux density, and voltage signals are measured to determine engine speed.

Position sensors are useful for determining the placement of aircraft components and flight surfaces, and types include linear variable differential transformers and variable differential transformers. For such flight controls or braking systems, a force and vibration sensor may be used to monitor torque and force.

From oxygen sensors to magnetometers, aircraft sensors and avionic system components are critical to the safe operation of many aircraft. When it comes time to begin sourcing the sensors and electronic system components that you need for your operations, look no further than NSN Supplies. NSN Supplies is a leading distributor of aircraft sensors and other aviation components, offering customers rapid lead-times and competitive pricing on all that we offer. Get started on the purchasing process today with a competitive quote when you fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form.


February 2, 2021

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