How Does a Gyroscope Work?

How Does a Gyroscope Work?

March 14, 2020

Gyroscopes are an ancient technology used to measure or maintain orientation and velocity. In the yachting world, they’re used to help steady boats, taking away the uncomfortable boat roll that can lead to seasickness. If you’ve ever enjoyed a smooth ride over choppy water, chances are you were in a boat with a gyroscope. So, what exactly are gyroscopes in Fort Lauderdale, FL? Read on to find out!

How gyroscopes work

The gyroscope existed as far back as ancient Rome, Greece and China, and not much has changed about them since. Gyroscopes consist of a wheel, which is mounted in either two or three gimbals. Gimbals allow the wheel to rotate on a single axis. The outer gimbal, or frame, pivots on its own axis, which is dependent on the support. The inner gimbal is designed to pivot on an axis that’s perpendicular to the outer frame’s axis.

A gyroscope operates on angular momentum instead of linear momentum. You’re probably familiar with linear momentum, like when a car is in motion—once the car is in motion, it will keep going forward unless something stops it. Angular momentum is similar, except that the force lands on an object and moves in right angles.

When a gyroscope is spun, it generally remains in the same orientation, and will resist any force trying to change the orientation. They’re not just used in boats, however—airplanes, space stations and even yo-yos use gyroscopic capabilities. In short, they allow you to maintain a specific orientation, which is why we use them to steady boats.

How gyroscopes are used at sea

Gyroscopes have been used to stabilize ships since the 1800s, including the World War I craft, the USS Henderson, launched in 1917. In fact, the flywheels on that ship weighed nine tons and were 25 feet in diameter. Compare that with the average sea gyroscope for yachts, which are about the size of a microwave.

The gyroscope went out of fashion for larger ships in favor of other stabilizing technology, but they’re still very popular for smaller vessels—the Seakeeper is an example of a boat gyroscope in use today.

When a boat starts rolling, the gyroscope provides a counteracting force that stabilizes the vessel, stopping it from lurching or rolling over. Today, experts recommend that your gyroscope shouldn’t be used in large waves, but it’s quite helpful to ensure smooth sailing during normal conditions.

If you’re interested in guaranteeing a smooth ride, installing a gyroscope on your boat can make a world of difference. This ancient technology continues to provide reliable results on land, in the air and in the water.

Starboard Yacht Group LLC provides yacht owners with the highest quality boat maintenance and repair technicians in the Fort Lauderdale area. Our team takes the burden out of boat ownership by performing extensive maintenance and all necessary repairs, guaranteeing the highest levels of safety and performance possible. Call us today to learn more about how gyroscopes work and how we can keep your yacht in Fort Lauderdale, FL in prime condition.

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