University of Michigan gyroscope could reduce dependence on GPS in electronics

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Researchers powered the University of Michigan have developed a small but powerful gyroscope that could reduce the GPS-dependency of drones and autonomous cars.

According to U-M’s Schlumberger Professor of Engineering, Khalil Najafi, the gyroscope -- a device used to measure and maintain navigation found in smartphones and other technologies -- is 10,000 times more accurate than a typical smartphone gyroscope but at only 10 times the cost.

The amped-up accuracy of Najafi’s birdbath resonator gyroscope could improve the navigation of smartphones, autonomous vehicles and other forms of technologies that rely on GPS signals to get around.

The gyroscope could help these technologies navigate when conditions make GPS signal poor.

Other highly accurate gyroscopes are used as parts of inertial measurement units -- units that power back up navigation systems. Even low-cost IMUs are too expensive to be put into many forms of technology or have poor navigation accuracy so they are out of reach of many developing technologies.

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But the new micro-gyroscope has a symmetrical glass resonator and a special shape, which increases its accuracy. The tiny device uses electrodes as well as a metal coating to contain vibration patterns that move the gyroscope. It’s small size also means that it can easily fit in navigational systems within drones, cars and underwater vehicles.

The research was conducted by Khalil Najafi and Jae Yoong Cho, who makeup Enertia Microsystems, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The gyroscope creation process was possible through the U-M’s Lurie Nanofabrication Facility.

Enertia Microsystems' minuscule gyroscope powered by the University of Michigan. (Najafi Group)

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Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.