What is a Gyroscope?

A gyroscope is defined as

The device has a spinning disc that is mounted on the base such that it can move freely in more than one direction so that the orientation is maintained irrespective of the movement in the base.

Gyroscope Diagram

Parts of Gyroscope

Parts of Gyroscope

A gyroscope consists of the following parts:

  • Spin axis
  • Gimbal
  • Rotor
  • Gyroscope frame

Design of Gyroscope

A gyroscope can be considered as a massive rotor that is fixed on the supporting rings known as the gimbals. The central rotor is isolated from the external torques with the help of frictionless bearings that are present in the gimbals. The spin axis is defined by the axle of the spinning wheel.

The rotor has exceptional stability at high speeds as it maintains the high-speed rotation axis at the central rotor. The rotor has three degrees of rotational freedom.

Gyroscope Working Principle

The working principle of gyroscope is based on gravity and is explained as the product of angular momentum which is experienced by the torque on a disc to produce a gyroscopic precession in the spinning wheel.

This process is termed gyroscopic motion or gyroscopic force and is defined as the tendency of a rotating object to maintain the orientation of its rotation.

We know that the rotating object possesses angular momentum and this needs to be conserved. This is done because when there is any change in the axis of rotation, there will be a change in the orientation which changes the angular momentum. Therefore, it can be said the working principle of gyroscope is based on the conservation of angular momentum.

Types of Gyroscopes

The following are the three types of gyroscopes:

  • Mechanical gyroscope
  • Optical gyroscope
  • Gas-bearing gyroscope

Mechanical Gyroscope

The working principle of the mechanical gyroscope is based on the conservation of angular momentum. This is also one of the most commonly known gyroscopes. The mechanical gyroscope is dependent on the ball bearing to spin. These gyroscopes are replaced with modern forms of gyroscopes as they are noisier. They find applications in the navigation of large aircraft and missile guidance.

Optical Gyroscopes

These gyroscopes are dependent on the ball bearing or the rotating wheel. They are also not based on the conservation of angular momentum. Optical gyroscopes use two coils of optic fibre that are spun in different orientations. Since there is no movement in the optical gyroscopes, these are considered to be durable and find applications in modern spacecraft and rockets.

Optical Gyroscope

Gas-Bearing Gyroscopes

In a gas-bearing gyroscope, the amount of friction between the moving parts is reduced by suspending the rotor with the help of pressurized gas. NASA used a gas-bearing gyroscope in the development of the Hubble telescope. When compared to the other types of gyroscopes, gas-bearing is quieter and more accurate.

Below is a video of a gyroscopic effect experiment:

Applications of Gyroscope

  • Gyroscopes find applications in the compasses of boats, spacecraft, and aeroplanes. The orientation and the pitch of the aeroplane are determined against the steady spin of the gyroscope.
  • In spacecraft, the navigation of the desired target is done with the help of a gyroscope. The spinning centre of the gyroscope is used as the orientation point.
  • The stabilization of the large boats and satellites is done with the help of massive gyroscopes.
  • Gyroscopes are used in gyrotheodolites for the maintenance of the direction in tunnel mining.
  • Gyroscopes along with accelerometers are used in the design of smartphones providing excellent motion sensing.

What is the difference between Accelerometer and Gyroscope?

An accelerometer is defined as an instrument used for measuring acceleration and for detecting vibrations. The other way of defining an accelerometer is an electromechanical device that measures forces due to acceleration.

Accelerometer Gyroscope
It is used for measuring the linear movement and for the detection of tilt It is used for the measurement of all types of rotation but fails in the identification of movement
The signal-to-noise ratio is lower The signal-to-noise ratio is higher
This cannot be used for the measurement of angular velocity This can be used for the measurement of angular velocity
It is used for sensing axis orientation It is used for sensing angular orientation
Accelerometer Gyroscope

The below video explains how angular velocity works:

Read more:

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

What is gyroscopic couple?

A gyroscopic couple is defined as the turning moment in which the changes are opposed by the inclination of the axis of rotation of the gyroscope.

What is the expression for gyroscopic couple?

The expression for gyroscopic couple is given as:
C = I.⍵.⍵p

  • C is the gyroscopic couple
  • I is the moment of inertia
  • ⍵ is the angular velocity
  • ⍵p is the angular velocity of precession

What is gyroscopic torque?

The gyroscopic torque is defined as the torque that is applied to the rotating body such that there is a change in the axis of rotation of the rotating body.

State true or false:
The engine of an aeroplane rotates in a clockwise direction when it is seen from the tail end. The aeroplane takes a right turn. Therefore, it can be said that the effect of gyroscopic couple on the aeroplane is from the dip to the tail.

The given statement is true.

What is the degree of freedom for gyroscope rotor?

The degree of freedom for gyroscope rotor is 3.

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