How Inertial Navigation Systems Utilize MEMS Angular Rate Sensors

Inertial navigation systems are used in a variety of applications, from aircraft and spacecraft to submarines, automotive vehicles, and hand-held gadgets. At their core, inertial navigation systems rely on a combination of sensors and algorithms to provide accurate position data over time. One such sensor is the MEMS angular rate sensor. Let’s take a closer look at how these sensors work and why they are so important for inertial navigation systems.

What is an Angular Rate Sensor?

An angular rate sensor (also known as a gyroscope or rotational speed sensor) measures the rate of rotation around an axis in degrees per second (dps). This type of sensor is usually based on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology and can detect small changes in rotational movement—even if those changes occur over long periods of time.

How Do Angular Rate Sensors Work?

Angular rate sensors use a variety of techniques to measure the rate of rotation around an axis. For example, some use vibrating mass elements or spinning mechanical elements to detect changes in angular velocity. Others utilize MEMS accelerometers that measure linear acceleration along three axes, which then allows them to calculate the angular velocity using trigonometric functions. 

Why Are They Used in Inertial Navigation Systems?

Inertial navigation systems rely on multiple sensors—including accelerometers and gyroscopes—to accurately determine their position over time. The MEMS angular rate sensor plays an important role in this process by providing reliable data about the system’s orientation relative to its previous location. This helps ensure that the system can accurately track its movements even when there are no external references available (such as GPS signals). As a result, these types of sensors are often used in applications where accuracy is paramount and external reference points are not available or reliable.

MEMS angular rate sensors play an essential role in inertial navigation systems, providing accurate information about the system’s orientation relative to its previous location with minimal power consumption. By combining this data with other readings from accelerometers and other types of sensors, inertial navigation systems can provide highly accurate position data over time regardless of external reference points or conditions. Ultimately, this makes them ideal for applications where accuracy is paramount and external references are unavailable or unreliable.

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