What Is a Gyroscope?

The orientation of the axis is not affected by the tilted mounting, enabling the gyroscope to provide critical data about the aircraft. To become more familiar with such an instrument, this blog will cover different types of gyroscopes, their applications, and importance.

In their most basic form, gyroscopes are a spinning wheel on an axle. However, more complex configurations are mounted on a metal frame or a set of moveable frames or gimbals that enable the apparatus to function with increased precision. Usually referred to as multi-axis gyroscopes, this type allows for a wide bandwidth in all their axes.

Though gyroscopes seem simple in essence, they have complex uses today. As such, they are used in compasses and autopilot equipment on ships and aircraft, as well as in the steering mechanisms of torpedoes, ballistic missiles, and orbiting satellites. That being said, to understand their importance and how they serve such a perse set of applications, we must look at a brief history of gyroscopes.

Gyroscopes, or other instruments similar in function, can be found as far back as the Greek, Roman, and Chinese empires. However, it was not until 1743 that the first known version came about. It was called a Whirl Speculum or Serson’s Speculum, and it was used as a level to locate the horizon in foggy or misty conditions. Not until 70 years later was the instrument actually used as a gyroscope. By the 1860s, the emergence of electric motors made it possible for a gyroscope to spin indefinitely.

Soon, gyroscopes would be commended for their versatility. In the military realm, it would become apparent that gyroscopes could be used for automatic steering and to adjust turn and pitch motion in cruise and ballistic missiles. During WWII, gyroscopes became essential components for aircraft and anti-aircraft gun sights. After the war, they were reworked for use in guided missiles and weapons navigation systems, some of which weighed less than 3 ounces.

As previously discussed, the gyroscopes we may come across today look and function very differently than their predecessors. Gyroscopes consist of a massive rotor that is positioned in light supporting rings called gimbals. The gimbals are equipped with frictionless bearings that isolate the center rotor from the outside torques. The spin axis is determined by the spinning wheel’s axle. As the rotor spins around its axis, it gains speed while maintaining stability. There are various types of gyroscopes, some of which we will cover in the next section.

Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMs) Gyroscope

Found in electronic devices, MEMs gyroscopes are recognized for their miniature size.

Hemispherical Resonator Gyroscope (HRG)

Often called a wine-glass gyroscope or mushroom gyro, an HRG is composed of a solid-state hemispherical shell that is held in position by a thick stem. The shell is driven to a flexural resonance by electrostatic forces that are produced by electrodes surrounding the shell. The flexural standing waves have an inertial property that help generate a gyroscopic effect.

Vibrating Structure Gyroscope

Also referred to as a Coriolis Vibratory Gyroscope (CVG), this type uses a vibrating structure to determine the rate of rotation.

Dynamically Tuned Gyroscope (DTG)

DTGs consist of a rotor that is suspended by a universal joint with flexure pivots. The flexure spring maintains balance while the rotor spins. Meanwhile, the gimbal’s dynamic inertia provides a negative spring stiffness that is equal to the square of the spin speed.


If you find yourself in need of gyroscopes, rotors, or other related components, rely on Jet Parts 360. Jet Parts 360 is your go-to sourcing solution for new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find parts, all of which have been vetted for quality, authenticity, and reliability. Kickoff the procurement process with a competitive quote which you may request through our Instant RFQ service, and see why customers choose to depend on Jet Parts 360 every time!


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