Pitot Tube Flow Measurement Principle and Equation

The Pitot tube is a simple device that allows for the measurement of the flow pressure in a moving fluid. This device is a section of tube that measures the pressure at the tip and the pressure at the side of the tube. Reading this differential pressure and applying Bernoulli’s equation will allow for the calculation of the fluid velocity.


The above diagram shows how the Pitot tube is constructed of two tubes, one inside the other, to create a static pressure port and a flow pressure port. Applying Bernoulli’s equation we get:


If we solve for the velocity we get the following equation:


With the velocity of the fluid now known, you can simply multiply it by the area of the duct to get the total volume flow.

This process is extremely useful in locations where there is a significant volume in a large duct or pipe. The differential pressure between the two ports is typically quite small for air flow, and the use of water monometers is a common method of measuring the pressure differential. Small differential pressure transducers are also quite common when an electronic readout is required or desired. Liquid flows can have significantly larger pressure differentials.

As with the obstruction flow meters, the fluid that is within the pipe or duct will be on the pressure taps. If this fluid has any nasty properties, you need to take the appropriate steps to protect personnel and equipment. Not all fluids are compatible with all pressure transducers and care must be taken to ensure that an appropriate material is used for all wetted parts.

Credits - Mitchell Cottrell

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