Gyroscopes Navigation Airplane

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In recent years, there has been significant focus placed on the development of new and very high accuracy gyroscopes for extremely precise navigation. For example, the Department of Defense Budget for the 2005 fiscal year shows an allocation of over $5 million dollars a year to a program dedicated to the research of advanced gyroscopes. Older technologies lose accuracy gauging an airplane's location at a rate of about 1 mile per hour. According to Honeywell, this output drift over time is one of the key considerations when using gyros.

Business Opportunity

Exciting new technical advances in the area of ultra cold and cold atom sensors, will allow significant improvements in the performance of gyroscopes and inertial navigation systems. For a few years now, reputable scientists have stated that a portable sized atomic gyroscope would be a desirable replacement for the older technology of ring laser gyroscopes and fiber-optic gyroscopes. According to the Office of Naval Research, “such a gyroscope could be up to more than 1,000 times more accurate than existing instruments.”

The Department of Defense claims the forthcoming “technological leap will enable more robust operations of several magnitudes - from underwater (including covert submarine operation and littoral navigation around obstacles) to outer space (from space flight to precise, autonomous satellite positioning).”

The opportunity for a high-accuracy anti-drift solution that can be integrated into current inertial navigation systems is tremendous.

Types of Gyroscopes

Ring Laser Gyroscopes (RLGs): Developed in the 1970s using laser technology. They have been used widely in both commercial and military navigation. Annual market data is not readily available, but a publication from 1998, by the National Research Council, reported laser gyroscopes as being a $400 million dollar market, of which the ring laser gyroscope made up $100 million dollars.

Fiber-Optic Gyroscopes (FOGs): Developed later when advancements were made in both integrated optics and optical fiber technologies. Northrop Grumman, one of the major players in the development of the fiber-optic gyroscope, has produced and delivered a growing number of FOGs since its first market entry in 1991. By 2006, around 22,000 fiber-optic gyro based inertial system products and 7,500 individual fiber-optic gyro rate sensors had been sold into various markets.

Microelectromechanical System (MEMS): Gyroscopes primarily used in automotive and consumer applications which don't require the highest accuracy.

Atomic Gyroscopes: Compared to light, atomic gyroscopes use beams of atoms which can be measured more precisely and do not vary in characteristics. According to a study at Stanford University, atomic gyroscopes only have a drift of 16 feet per hour compared to the older technology which looses accuracy at a rate of 1 nautical mile per hour.

Major Players

For the sake of this study, we focused on RLG, FOG, and Atomic Gyroscopes. The following analysis looks at those companies conducting R&D and producing high accuracy gyroscopes for use in both civil and military applications. Major players analyzed include:

  • Honeywell
  • Northrop Grummann
  • Lockhead Martin
  • Raytheon



Market Overview

The quality and prices of inertial navigation systems (INS) are based heavily on their drift rates. Navigational grade systems have drift rates of less than 1 nautical mile per hour. A single INS can cost tens of thousands of dollars, which is why air carriers and military aircrafts are the only ones who use triply redundant inertial navigation systems (INS) for primary aviation navigation in oceanic airspace.

Target Markets for Atomic Gyroscopes include:

  • Commercial Aircrafts
  • Military Aircrafts
  • Submarines
  • Space

Airplane Market Size

Each new airplane contains an inertial navigation system equipped with gyroscope technology.

  • 28,600 new planes will be delivered over the next 20 years. Of these new planes, 40% will be airplanes to replace old ones and the other 60% will be airplanes to grow the fleet.
  • These new airplanes will make up 80% of the 36,400 airplanes in service in 2026
  • Due to the high growth and replacement rates, it is possible for new gyroscope technology to gain significant market share within a few years

Source: The Boeing Company

Aerospace Industry - Total Sales by Product Group

Total aerospace industry sales are expected to be $210 billion in the year 2008

  • $60 billion will be in civil aircrafts
  • $52 billion in military aircrafts
  • $19 billion in missiles
  • $41 billion in space
  • $38 billion in related products and services

Source: The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA)

Aerospace Industry - Products and Services Sales by Customer

Sales in the aerospace industry are divided between both civil and military customers.

  • 47.5% to the Department of Defense
  • 10.5% to NASA and other agencies
  • 42% to other customers

Source: The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA)

Due to the high growth and replacement rates, it is possible for new gyroscope technology to gain significant market share within a few years. ColdQuanta's ultra cold atom technology is the enabling technology necessary for the development of this next generation of high-accuracy gyroscopes.