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Definition and Examples of Telemetry, History of Telemetry


telemetry receiving equipment

24th March 1964: The telemetry receiving equipment which records signals on tape at the radio research station at Slough.

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By definition, telemetry is the highly automated communications process by which measurements are made and other data collected at remote or inaccessible points and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring. Telemetry is the science and technology of automatic measurement and transmission of data by wire, radio, or other means from remote sources, as from space vehicles, to receiving stations for recording and analysis. Another example of telemetry, is the tracking of the movements of wild animals that have been tagged with radio transmitters, or the transmitting of meteorological data from weather balloons to weather stations.

Since telemetry is a term used to describe a general process that can involve many different technologies, several inventors could be named in the complex development of telemetry.


The original telemetry systems were termed supervisory because they were used to monitor electric power distribution. In the first such system, installed in Chicago in 1912, telephone lines were used for transmitting data on the operation of a number of electric power plants to a central office. Since then telemetry has spread to other fields each making improvements and modifications to suit the desired purpose.

Aerospace Telemetry

Aerospace telemetry started in the 1930s with the radiosonde, a device that automatically measured temperature, barometric pressure and humidity from a balloon high in space, and sent the data back to Earth using a radio signal. Aerospace telemetry for rockets and satellites began on the Soviet satellite Sputnik, launched in 1957. The technology developed in aerospace telemetry has crossed over to many industrial operations; i.e. the testing of internal-combustion engines, watching steam turbines in operation or conveyor belts inside mass-production ovens.

In 1960, the interrogation-reply principle was developed. This is a highly automated arrangement in which the transmitter at the measuring location automatically transmits needed data only after being signaled. The interrogation-reply principle is now used in such fields as oil-pipeline monitor-control systems and oceanography.

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