Rate Gyroscope Circuitry Explained


Hackaday alum [Adam Munich] shot a tutorial video on using a rate gyroscope.

Here he’s showing off the really fancy piece of ancient (technologically speaking) hardware. It would have set you back about fifteen grand in the 1960’s (inflation adjusted) but can be had these days for around $30. What a deal! These are not small, or power efficient when compared to the components that go into smart phones or gaming controllers, but they’re a heck of a lot more accurate than the ubiquitous modern parts. That’s because a rate gyroscope — which is the gold cylinder on the left — actually incorporates a spinning motor and a way to monitor how it is affected by changes in gravity. The driver/interface circuitry for this gets hairy relatively fast, but [Adam] does a solid job of breaking down the concept into smaller parts that are easy to manage.

Wondering what is different about this compared to a MEMS accelerometer? We know they’re really not the same thing at all, but wanted a chance to mention [The Engineer Guy’s] video on how those parts are made.

26 thoughts on “Rate Gyroscope Circuitry Explained

      1. Rate gyro gives you rate of rotation (deg/sec – not angular acceleration) which you cannot get form an accelerometer (at least, not that I know of anyway). Ideally, you need both pieces of hardware, not just one.

          1. I stand corrected!

            That’s really awesome. Seems like it would just be easier to use a MEMS rate gyro and be done with it. Now the question remains: why would you do it this way? Seems overly complicated (especially after having a look at the paper).

            I only commented initially because there have been other instances here where the terms ‘rate gyro’ and ‘accelerometer’ are used interchangeably. ;)

          2. @medix
            Not an engineer, but the three big reasons for the accelerometer approach that I can think of off the top of my head are when:
            -you don’t want any moving parts for some reason
            -you already need an accelerometer or two, and you’re playing games with parts count or variety to get unit cost down
            -the particular problem doesn’t require a whole lot of granularity, like distinguishing between not rotating at all and rotating a whole lot

  1. I know you stated more accurate than what’s found in various devices… but I can’t picture this being more accurate than the MEMs gyros found in a variety of relatively cheap head-holding r/c helicopter gyros. There’s a reason those things can head hold.

    1. Look at some of the datasheets, you will find that the cheap MEMS gyros are…well, toys…
      The really nice ones are near impossible to get by normal people, since apart the sky high pricing it’s also an ITAR restricted item…

      These old bangers could guide an ICBM literally from the other side of the planet into a spot with a diameter of less then 1km (~0.625 miles), try that with a toy quadrotor :P

      1. NYC to LA and be within 50 feet of the landing glide path. The real things can do that.

        Not without being updated by reference to an external signal such as GPS or DME/DME. Going coast to coast purely on inertial and being within 50 feet isn’t going to happen with anything you and I have a security clearance to see.

        A couple miles, yes. 50 feet, no.

  2. I bet that most of the circuitry could be replaced with a microcontroller, just leaving the AB-amplifiers. But some guys is apparently desperate to make it big and complicated.

  3. That looks like a rate gyro out of a certain shoulder fired, uh, fireworks shooter… What application do you think one would use a gold cased hardware gyro for exactly? and do you honestly think a modern mems device out of a cell phone is as accurate as that and as hardened to uh, the fireworks field, as that thing is? and do you think they don’t still use those, even if you can get them as surplus? You kids need to understand not everything made was inteded to go in your pocket and send text messages….

    1. yes it’s wrong…the clue is that the feedback resistor should always go from the output to the ‘-‘ terminal. if you connect it the other way around you get a comparator circuit.

  4. i found one of these rate gyros in my junk box, so i tried out the circuit presented in the video. it worked with two modifications.

    1. the sine wave op amp required a rewire (set as a noninverting amplifier with a gain of 2).

    2. the output stages tended to go into thermal runaway because the VBE generator diodes had a slightly greater voltage drop than the two base emitter junctions, so there was shoot-through current. i found that just using 1 diode was enough, and no diodes also worked but with crossover distortion (as expected).

    instead of building that crazy frequency divider circuit i just used a function generator.

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