In What is the motivation behind designing a control stick that does not move? the F-16's control stick is discussed. What is the method that is used to sense the pilot's input to the stick and convert this to an electrical signal?

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    $\begingroup$ It's 2-dimensional set up with load cells, like this one. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ pretty much like how all the scales works now. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 18:27

2 Answers 2


The stick measures force by using strain gauges. These work by measuring the change in electrical resistance caused by stretching or compressing the thin metallic foil, which is bonded onto the stick shaft.

An accurate setup requires two strain gauges at opposite sides, which are measured using a Wheatstone bridge: the difference in resistance of the two gauges is used for the force signal.

There are other ways of measuring input force, but none are more accurate than the strain gauge/ Wheatstone bridge setup which can measure force in both directions and has little to no hysteresis.

  • $\begingroup$ Does the stick move? $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @rclocher3 yes it does, a little bit, loaded by a very stiff passive spring. Key point though is that it isn’t stick position that is used for input to the fly-by-wire computations, but stick force is. There is a breakout position in the centre where the stick does not move until a force level is exceeded, no problem for fly-by-wire if the force is measured and the position is inconsequential. $\endgroup$
    – Koyovis
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 19:19

The side stick controller uses two sets of quad-redundant, linear variable-displacement transducers to measure stick position against a linear spring force. One set is for pitch and the other is for roll. The electrical signals from the LVDTs go to a computer. Control law software interprets the inputs and controls the hydraulic actuators that move the control surfaces.


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