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How to Use an Inclinometer to Measure Height

Updated on December 8, 2011

Or building? Or rocket?

In this article, you will learn how to use an inclinometer to measure height with the help of a little trigonometry and a calculator.


We need to be able to measure the angle between us and the thing we are measuring the height of as seen in the diagram to the right.

It is super easy to use an inclinometer to measure height, as you will see. There are a million protractors you can print out from the internet but to save you time looking, here’s one you can use. Print this out and glue it to a piece of cardboard or thin veneer.

Tape a straw or a paper cylinder to the top so you have something to look through. It should look something like the picture to the right. Poke a hole where it looks like you need a hole loop a string through the hole and hang a weight from it. When you look at the top of something through the cylinder, the weight will hang vertically and tell you the angle of elevation.

Now, you can’t see it because you are looking through the hole, not at the angle so you can either:

1) Get a friend to tell you the angle or:

2) Squeeze the string against the cardboard with your fingers, stop looking at the object and look at the angle.

You need one more thing before you can do the calculation; the distance to the bottom of “the thing” you are looking at. Measure that distance accurately with a tape measure or guestimate the distance by pacing it off.

The only formula you need to know is the following:

Height = distance X tan x, where x is the angle you measured.

Any cheap calculator will have a tangent (tan) key on it. Or you can easily find one online. Or you can download one for free at . They have a version for your computer as well as one that you can put on a USB flash drive.


The distance to the tree is 10 meters and the angle of elevation is 65 degrees. The height of the tree is:

Height = 10 x tan 65 = 21.45 meters

Of course, you can add your height to the measurement since, in theory, you are measuring from your eyeball but hopefully you are not looking for that kind of accuracy using this type of equipment! Using this technique, you can use an inclinometer to measure the height of any object.


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    • profile image

      atanuigi samanta 4 years ago

      very good

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      Great! Brings back memories!

      Yes, I remember doing this at primary school. We had a brilliant time, measuring the height of old trees..

    • profile image

      Maruza 6 years ago

      There is a simple way to check height, only by using cardboard, yarn, pin, nut, pencil and ruler. No need protractor..

      No need to get close to object, you can measure from a distance. Only need a certain length of path to get ratio for scale.


    • Steve LePoidevin profile image

      Steve LePoidevin 6 years ago from Thailand

      Thanks for checking it out!

    • profile image

      卓峰 6 years ago