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What are the applications of gyroscopes?

Here is a non-exhaustive list of applications with more detailed information below
  • Toys gyroscopes
  • Cars
  • Phones and tablets
  • Radio controlled aircraft and drones
  • Aircraft
  • Tanks
  • Rockets/missiles
  • Cameras
  • Computer pointing devices
  • Spacecraft
  • Ships
  • Torpedoes
  • Drilling / surveying
  • Submarines

Toy Gyroscopes

Toy gyroscopes have been made for over 100 years. One of the oldest manufacturers of toy gyroscopes is a company called Tedco. They have been manufacturing since approximately 1911, although the brand has changed 3 times (Tedco, Chandler and Hurst brands). Gyroscope toys became popular not long after the invention of the first gyroscope in the 1850s and mass production seemed to occur some decades later. Gyroscopes have similarities to spinning tops as a gyroscope is like a spinning top in a cage. Gyroscopes appear to defy gravity and this often can make them mysterious at first. Typical tricks include balancing the gyroscope on your finger, balancing it on string or dangling it from string at unexpected angles.

Gyroscopes in Cars

Gyroscopes are used in cars as a part of safety features. There are sensors on the steering wheel to detect the angle in which the car should be travelling as well as sensors on the wheels to detect how fast the car is travelling. This information is compared with a gyroscope sensor to detect if the car is skidding. If the car is skidding an on board computer can make rapid changes to the acceleration and braking to try and bring the car under control. Some cars also use gyroscopes to detect if the car is rolling over during an accident and then can deploy the airbags.

Phones and tablets

Not long after the invention of smart phones, gyroscopes started to be used as a sensor to detect the angle that the phone or tablet is positioned. This is used in apps and games but also basic functions like knowing which way round the screen is facing.

Gyroscopes in RC aicraft and drones

Gyroscopes are used in many types of radio controlled aircraft and drones to stabilise flight. The gyroscopes can detect the attitude of the aircraft and if the aircraft is wandering off the desired attitude, it can make corrective measures. For a quadcopter a gyroscope is almost essential, giving feedback to a small on-board computer that can change the power output to certain motors to stabilise flight. Radio controlled planes use gyroscopes differently and is usually integrated between the receiver and the rudder servos. These types of gyroscopes are usually known as heading hold gyroscopes.

Aircraft Gyroscopes

Gyroscopes are a critical part of commercial aircraft and light aircraft. Aircraft have numerous types of gyroscopes based instruments to aid the pilot with the flight. Instruments such as rate gyroscopes are used to detect the rate (how fast) the aircraft is turning. Gyrocompasses are used to detect the angle that the aircraft is pointing towards. They are also used in an artificial horizon which shows the pilot the attitude of the aircraft. Autopilots use gyroscopes to detect the angle that the aircraft is travelling at and to correct if it deviates off that course.


Tanks use gyroscopes for positioning the gun accurately while driving over rough terrain. This can be accomplished by gyroscope sensors which then use servo motors or hydraulics to position the turret regardless what is happening to the chassis of the tank.

Rockets and missiles

Without some form of sensor, rockets/missiles will deviate off course due to inaccuracies in the aerodynamics or slight inconsistences in the rocket motor. Even a slight breeze will cause the rocket to deviate off course. There are a number of different ways to ensure that the missile travels on the correct path. This could be accomplished with GPS or some sort of visual sensor to direct it to the target. However, gyroscopes can also be used and are useful because the response from the gyroscope is incredibly rapid and they can be very accurate too. Gyroscopes can't be jammed like GPS radio frequencies or overwhelming a camera sensor with flares.

Gyro sensors in cameras

A gyroscope can be used for reducing the shake in video footage from cameras. In this method the gyroscope detects the actual shake. The camera takes an over-sized image and a microprocessor can then crop the image by using the angle of the gyroscope as a reference. The crop can be made in different places on the image. In other words, the cropping is not always central. The cropping may move around to the top left or the top right depending on the wobble or the shaking of the camera. This results in a stabilised video but with the downside of needing a larger image sensor as some of the image is always discarded or a reduction in the video quality as the resolution has to be scaled after cropping.

Gyroscopes in computer pointing devices

Gyroscopes get used in some types of obscure computer pointing devices. There have been a number of mice that can be picked up and then pointed. This is particularly useful in presentations where the presenter needs to point at certain parts of the presentation. Normally mice need a surface in order to track their movements. With these types of special mice when lifted into the air they can be tilted to produce the same movements on the screen.


Gyroscopes are used in spacecraft and satellites both for attitude control and to detect changes in attitude.


Ships use gyroscopes for navigation and sometime stabilisation. For example, a gyro compass is widely used on ships to give an accurate measurement of true North. On some cruise ships and expensive yachts gyrostabilisers are used to reduce the roll of the ship and reduce seasickness.


Gyroscopes are used on torpedoes to stop them deviating off course.

Oil and gas industry

Gyroscopes get used extensively in the drilling and surveying sector. Modern drilling heads have the ability to direct the drilling. Gyroscopes are used to survey the drill hole to ensure the drilled hole is being drilled in the correct place.


Gyroscopes can be used in monorails to keep the carriage upright. Although no commercial monorails exist using this technology has been proven in the past and a number of demonstration monorails have operated.


Gyroscopes get used on submarines for navigational purposes as well as on some of the weaponry, including the missile systems and the torpedoes.