A gyroscope or gyro is a device that is useful in robot navigation. It forms the heart of an inertial guidance system, operating on the basis of the fact that a rotating, heavy disk tends to maintain its orientation in space.

The illustration shows the construction of a simple gyroscope. The disk, made of massive material such as solid steel or tungsten, is mounted in a gimbal, which is a set of bearings that allows the disk to turn up and down or from side to side; conversely, the bearings allow the entire assembly (except for the disk) to undergo pitch, roll, and yaw while the disk remains fixed in its spatial orientation. The disk is usually driven by an electric motor.

A gyroscope can be employed to keep track of a robot’s direction of travel, or bearing, in three-dimensional (3-D) space without reliance on external objects, beacons, or force fields. Gyroscopes allow the accurate operation of guidance systems for a limited time, because they tend to change their orientation slowly over long periods. In addition, gyroscopes are susceptible to misalignment in the event of physical shock.

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