Gyroscopic Navigation (Autopilot)

Gyroscopic navigation enables planes and ships to stay on a straight course without human intervention.

Long before GPS, airplane pilots used compasses and waypoints to navigate. Natural landmarks or even giant arrows guided planes when to turn and in which direction. Of course, between waypoints, it was necessary to fly straight or the pilot would not get from one waypoint to another.

Ships had a similar problem. Sailing straight, where stars became the waypoints, was a challenge. Furthermore, some metal ships interfered with magnetic compasses.

Keeping a ship or plane on course was simultaneously both stressful and dull.

Gyroscopic navigation solved these problems. Gyroscopes kept planes and ships headed straight with no human intervention required. Besides steering straight they also helped stabilize planes, ships, and elevators.

Sperry’s company evolved into modern autopilot.