Ultrasonic transducers (also known as transceivers when they both send and receive) work on a principle similar to radar or sonar which evaluate attributes of a target by interpreting the echoes from radio or sound waves respectively. Ultrasonic transducers generate high frequency sound waves and evaluate the echo which is received back by the sensor. Transducers calculate the time interval between sending the signal and receiving the echo to determine the distance to an object.
This technology can be used for measuring: wind speed and direction (anemometer), fullness of a tank and speed through air or water. For measuring speed or direction a device uses multiple detectors and calculates the speed from the relative distances to particulates in the air or water. To measure the amount of liquid in a tank, the sensor measures the distance to the surface of the fluid. Further applications include: humidifiers, sonar, medical ultrasonography, burglar alarms and non-destructive testing.
Systems typically use a transducer which generates sound waves in the ultrasonic range, above 20,000 hertz, by turning electrical energy into sound, then upon receiving the echo turn the sound waves into electrical energy which can be measured and displayed.
The technology is limited by the shapes of surfaces and the density or consistency of the material. For example foam on the surface of a fluid in a tank could distort a reading.