Enhance UAV Accuracy with High-performance Pressure Sensors

UAV Blog Post

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Market

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as drones, are aircraft that operate without the presence of a human pilot on board. They form a part of an intricate unmanned aircraft system (UAS) comprising a ground-based controller and a communication mechanism that facilitates interaction between the controller and the UAV. During operation, the UAV can operate independently through internal electronics or be controlled remotely by a human operator. However, in both instances, sensors play a significant role in ensuring the proper execution of the UAV’s intended actions.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have revolutionized the world of aviation by offering unique advantages, including remote sensing and surveillance, without the need for a human pilot. UAVs rely on various sensors to measure the environmental conditions and help adjust the system. These sensors are crucial in ensuring the UAV operates safely and efficiently.

Among the array of sensors utilized in UAVs, the following are the most crucial:

1) Gyroscopes – these sensors azre responsible for detecting and measuring the rate of rotation, degree of tilt, and angular velocity of the UAV.

2) Accelerometers – used to detect linear movement along any axis of the UAV.

3) Barometers – these are responsible for measuring air pressure to help maintain a stable altitude.

4) Pitot Tubes – used specifically in winged UAVs to measure airspeed.

5) Angle of Attack (AOA) – important for determining the aerodynamic forces of winged UAVs.

6) Magnetometers – indicate magnetic field strength and direction to determine the heading of the UAV.

7) GPS – used to determine the positioning of the UAV.

8) Obstacle avoidance sensors – essential to ensure UAVs do not collide with objects.


Figure 1 – UAV Roll, Pitch and Yaw

This article will examine the first four sensors, which rely heavily on highly accurate pressure sensors. Gyroscopes, accelerometers, and barometers are sometimes combined to create an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) to measure crucial parameters such as pitch, roll, and yaw of the UAV. At the same time, the pitot tube determines airspeed. The fusion of these sensors provides the UAV with precise and reliable navigation and control capabilities, ensuring the UAV operates safely and efficiently in any environment.

The Role of Differential Pressure Sensors in IMUs

The IMU system relies heavily on differential pressure sensors to detect and alert the UAV to necessary adjustments. These sensors are essential components in three specific areas within the system. Their quick response time to pressure changes enables the UAV to make the corrections required for optimal performance.


Altitude is a determining factor for air pressure, with pressure decreasing as height increases. To accurately track changes in altitude, the use of a barometric pressure sensor is essential. This device allows for quick measurement of atmospheric pressure, ensuring the UAV is flying at the appropriate elevation.


Accelerometers are instruments that measure the velocity’s rate of change over time. They play an essential role in the navigation system of UAVs, as they are responsible for determining the aircraft’s orientation and movement. Differential pressure sensors are integrated into accelerometers to monitor changes in air pressure from the UAV’s nose, ensuring a steady rate of movement even in changing wind conditions and other variables.


Gyroscopes serve as a means of measuring angular movement and have the potential to incorporate differential pressure sensors, which aid in measuring the fluctuations in air pressure as a result of changing angles. This applies to any movement on any axis, be it roll, pitch, or yaw.

The Role of Differential Pressure Sensors in Pitot Tubes

Mounted on the exterior of a UAV, Pitot tubes utilize a differential pressure sensor to measure the airspeed of the UAV in relation to its surroundings. These tubes measure the variation between static pressure, the pressure of still air, and ram pressure, the pressure of moving air compressed by the UAV’s forward motion. As the speed of the UAV increases, so does the discrepancy between these pressure readings.

Pitot Tube

Figure 2 – Pitot Tube Diagram

Superior Sensor’s Technology Advantage

Superior Sensors has developed the pioneering NimbleSenseTM architecture, a one-of-a-kind integrated platform. This unique system incorporates advanced pressure sensing technology with customizable building blocks, providing unparalleled accuracy and reliability while minimizing system cost.

We are revolutionizing UAV performance with our cutting-edge ND Series of pressure sensors. Our ND015A barometric pressure sensor provides unparalleled accuracy in measuring atmospheric pressure, ensuring stable altitude maintenance for drones. Additionally, our Multi-Range differential pressure sensors, such as the ND005D, provide highly accurate airflow measurements, allowing UAVs to travel at precise speeds. Together, these sensors establish a new benchmark for UAV performance by offering:

Lowest Noise Floor

Differential pressure sensors utilized in UAVs face a significant challenge in the form of noise generated by both the drone and external elements like wind. Superior’s pressure sensors have advanced digital filtering technology that prevents noise from reaching the sensor sub-system. This ensures that any error signals caused by the noise are eliminated before they can impact the accuracy of air pressure readings.

Highest Levels of Accuracy

Slight variations in altitude, speed, or angle of attack must be carefully monitored to ensure that a fast-moving UAV maintains a steady trajectory. The key to minimizing any potential impact on the UAV’s trajectory is to use a differential pressure sensor that boasts the highest levels of accuracy. The ND Series offers exceptional accuracy with an effective resolution of 19 bits, allowing for measurement precision within 0.05% of the designated range and a total error band (TEB) of only 0.10% of FSS.

Fastest Response Times

Along with accuracy, the speed at which a pressure sensor updates its measurement data is equally important for a UAV to function optimally. The ability to quickly receive updated pressure measurements enables the drone to maintain precise positioning more efficiently. The ND Series offers configurable options for update rates, which can support speeds as fast as 1 msec.

Sensor Customization and Flexibility

One significant advantage of incorporating a single, adaptable sensor into the design of UAVs is that it can be customized for various applications on the drone, thus enhancing design efficiency and reducing product cost. With the ND Series, all sensors are pin-compatible, meaning the same sensor can be used for all UAV pressure sensing requirements. Depending on the application, each sensor can be optimized for specific purposes and offers customizable features such as pressure range, bandwidth filter, and output data rate.

The ND Series Sets a New Standard for UAV Performance


To operate successfully, UAVs depend on receiving a consistent flow of flight information. Pressure sensors are crucial for providing this data, which allows drones to fly smoothly and without interruption. The sensors must meet rigorous demands – rapidly filtering environmental interference, maintaining pinpoint precision under changing conditions, and being adaptable to the specific demands of the UAV market.

Superior Sensor Technology’s ND Series is the ideal solution for unparalleled design flexibility and top-tier performance. For additional information on our UAV offerings, please visit our ND Series product page.

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