A gyroscope (from Greek γῦρος gûros, “circle” and σκοπέω skopéō, “to look”) is a spinning wheel or disc in which the axis of rotation is free to assume any orientation by itself. When rotating, the orientation of this axis is unaffected by tilting or rotation of the mounting, according to theconservation of angular momentum. Because of this, gyroscopes are useful for measuring or maintaining orientation.
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Gyroscopes based on other operating principles also exist, such as the electronic, microchip-packaged MEMS gyroscopes found in consumer electronics devices, solid-state ring lasers, fibre optic gyroscopes, and the extremely sensitive quantum gyroscope.
Applications of gyroscopes include inertial navigation systems where magnetic compasses would not work (as in the Hubble telescope) or would not be precise enough (as in intercontinental ballistic missiles), or for the stabilization of flying vehicles like radio-controlled helicopters orunmanned aerial vehicles, and recreational boats and commercial ships. Due to their precision, gyroscopes are also used in gyrotheodolites to maintain direction in tunnel mining. Gyroscopes can be used to construct gyrocompasses, which complement or replace magnetic compasses (in ships, aircraft and spacecraft, vehicles in general), to assist in stability (Hubble Space Telescope, bicycles, motorcycles, and ships) or be used as part of an inertial guidance system.
Gimbal lock is the loss of one degree of freedom in a three-dimensional, three-gimbal mechanism that occurs when the axes of two of the three gimbals are driven into a parallel configuration, “locking” the system into rotation in a degenerate two-dimensional space.
The word lock is misleading: no gimbal is restrained. All three gimbals can still rotate freely about their respective axes of suspension. Nevertheless, because of the parallel orientation of two of the gimbals axes there is no gimbal available to accommodate rotation along one axis.
A gimbal is a ring that is suspended so it can rotate about an axis. Gimbals are typically nested one within another to accommodate rotation about multiple axes.
They appear in gyroscopes and in inertial measurement units to allow the inner gimbal’s orientation to remain fixed while the outer gimbal suspension assumes any orientation. In compasses and flywheel energy storage mechanisms they allow objects to remain upright. They are used to orientthrusters on rockets.
For cases of three or fewer nested gimbals, gimbal lock inevitably occurs at some point in the system due to properties of covering spaces (described below).
Difference Between Gyroscope and Gimbal
While there is a connection between a gyroscope and a gimbal, the fact is that the two devices are not identical. In fact, the gimbal is an integral part of the gyroscope. Without the use of the gimbal, the gyroscope would be much less effective.
The best way to understand the difference between a gimbal and a gyroscope is to define the nature and structure of both devices. Essentially, a gimbal is some type or base or ring that is mounted on an axis. The gimbal allows an object that is mounted on the base to move freely in any direction, so that the object remains in a horizontal position regardless of the angle of the base. This freedom of movement makes the gimbal an essential element in many devices that are used to measure momentum and directional orientation.
A gyroscope is one of the objects that makes efficient usage of the gimbal. Gyroscopes are composed of a rotor that is configured to spin around a single axis. Surrounding the rotor are one or more gimbals that help the device to maintain proper pitch and thus help to maintain inertia. This means that the gyroscope will often employ the use of both an inner and an outer gimbal in order to function properly. The outer ring of the gimbal configuration pivots around the axis and helps to maintain the level of force. The inner gimbal is mounted within the outer gimbal and pivots on an axis that maintains a consistent perpendicular relationship with the axis of the outer gimbal.
The function of the gyroscope would not be possible without the presence of a gimbal. One excellent example is with aviation. Because the gyroscopes are used to monitor or adjust the roll, pitch, and yaw of angles during flight, the devices are essential to maintaining the force and directional control needed to successfully fly from one location to another. Without the balance created by the gimbal, the gyroscope would not provide this type of data and would serve no useful purpose.