March 22, 2011 -- Micro-sensor experts at the Honeywell Aerospace Microelectronics & Precision Sensors segment in Plymouth, MN, are developing a miniature gyroscope for precision-guided munitions, ships, vehicles, aircraft, and even individual combatants under terms of a $5.9 million contract awarded late last week from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, VA.
The contract is for the three-year DARPA Microscale Rate Integrating Gyroscope (MRIG) program, which seeks to develop a micro-sensor vibrating-structure gyroscope to measure rotation over a wide range of dynamic conditions.
DARPA is asking Honeywell microelectronics experts to develop the micro-scale gyro for self-contained chip-scale inertial navigation and precision guidance systems that would help eliminate dependence on the satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) or any other external signals for uncompromised navigation and guidance.
Honeywell Aerospace experts will develop micro-gyros that are not influenced by the kinds of mechanical shocks, temperatures, vibrations, spin rates and accelerations that are common in guided munitions, and the Honeywell devices are expected to operate on no more power than a few tens of milliwatts. Honeywell will fabricate these micro gyros with large-scale manufacturability at its advanced microelectronics facilities in Plymouth, MN.
A vibrating-structure gyroscope operates on the principle that a vibrating object tends to keep vibrating in the same plane as its support is rotated. It is simpler and cheaper to design and build than is a conventional rotating gyroscope of similar accuracy, DARPA officials say.
DARPA scientists are asking Honeywell to develop these kinds of micro sensors as crucial parts of advanced inertial measurement units, small enough for guided munitions, handheld devices, and add-in portable guidance, navigation, and control units.
DARPA's primary goal of the MRIG program is to create a vibratory gyroscope able to measure the angle of rotation directly such that the gyros will extend their dynamic range, as well as eliminate the need for integrating angular rate information. In this way, DARPA and Honeywell researchers expect to eliminate an accumulation of errors due to numerical and electronic integration.
DARPA scientists are asking Honeywell to develop isotropic two-degree-of-freedom resonators -- especially microscopic 3-D shell resonators -- which are spheres, wine-glass shaped structures, or any spatially distributed shells with an axis of symmetry.
Rate integrating gyroscopes have high dynamic range, accuracy due to direct measurement of the angle of rotation, and ability to operate interchangeably in the whole angle and angular rate modes, DARPA experts point out.
Honeywell experts have big challenges ahead, as rate integrating gyroscope technology has never been demonstrated on the microscale level. Rate integrating gyroscope miniaturization would offer the potential for developing an inertial navigation system for spin-stabilized missiles, pointing technology for high-G munitions, and azimuth-based target mapping.
For more information, contact Honeywell Aerospace Microelectronics & Precision Sensors (formerly the Honeywell Solid-State Electronics Center) online at www.ssec.honeywell.com, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.