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The Gyro 100 years on

Silicon Sensing's 100 year pedegree of gyro manufacture.


1851 - The Singer Corporation

The Singer Corporation, first established by Isaac Merit Singer in 1851, was later to acquire a company at the roots of the Silicon Sensing family tree; Kearfott, in 1968.

1854 - Timex

Timex was founded as Waterbury Clock Company in 1854 and much later became involved with (clockwork) gyroscopes in 1953, later to be acquired by Bendix.


1860 - Elmer Ambrose Sperry

Elmer Ambrose Sperry was an American inventor and entrepreneur. He was most famous as co-inventor, with Herman Anschütz-Kaempfe, of the gyrocompass.  We regard Elmer Sperry as the founding father of inertial products business we have today.


1870 - Goodrich

Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich establishes the first rubber company west of the Allegheny Mountains, leading to Akron, Ohio becoming the rubber capital of the world.  140 years later a descendent of this company went on to buy the BAE Systems Inertial Products Division.


1886 - GEC

The General Electric Company or GEC was founded in 1886. It was a major industrial conglomerate, involved in consumer and defence electronics, communications and engineering.  In 1988 it acquired the Plessey business, the gyro arm of which can be traced through Singer back to Kearfott in 1917.


1901 - General Gas Light Co.

Alfred Humphrey opens General Gas Light Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan, marketing new, inverted arc gaslights.  The Humphrey company, much later, manufactured spring and gas powered gyroscopes used in aircraft and missile guidance.  Eventually bought out by Allied Signal in 1985.

1908 - Gyrocompass System

After many years of work, Sperry produced a workable gyrocompass system in the United States. Several attempts had been made previously but they suffered technical problems, including the Steaming Errors, where rapid changes in course, speed and attitude cause deviation before the gyro can adjust itself.

1908 - Gyroscope, the key component of the gyrocompass

“I am a firm believer in the future of the gyroscope. Not only will it guide our ships, but it will have other important and far-reaching bearing upon their operations. ... I would not be surprised if this instrument which for centuries has been a scientific toy and a plaything of mathematicians should become one of the most useful in the arts and industries.”

1909 - Plane Tyres

Goodrich enters the aerospace industry with aeroplane tyres.  This move paved the way to other aerospace business and technology interests of Goodrich culminating in acquiring BAE Systems' gyro business in 2009. 


1910 - The Sperry Gyroscope Co.

The Sperry Gyroscope Company was founded by Elmer A. Sperry to manufacture Sperry's gyrocompass. Three years later in 1913, Sperry Gyroscope Limited was established in the UK. Production in Britain of the Sperry Mk.1 Gyrocompass began shortly after.

1911 - Unit Number 100

The first Sperry gyro (Unit Number 100) was installed aboard the Old Dominion Line PRINCESS ANNE for a trial run from New York to Hampton Roads, Virginia. After completing the trial the unit was brought back to New York and installed aboard the U.S.S. DELAWARE. 

1911 - U.S.S. Deleware

Trials aboard the DELAWARE were launched starting on August 18, 1911. After the trials an order for four systems soon arrived from the U.S. Navy and Sperry Gyroscope was a reality. The first serially produced unit, Serial Number 101, was installed aboard the U.S.S. UTAH on November 13, 1911. Another of his gyros was installed aboard the U.S.S. DRAYTON.

1912 - Gyroscopic Car

Testing of the gyroscopic car - today we'd call it a self-balancing motorbike. A large spinning mass provided the gyroscopic forces to keep the two-wheeled car upright.  It never took off but, in a way, nearly 100 years later the two-wheeled Segway Human Transporter is a derivative of this conceptual mode of transport - see 2001.

1913 - Sperry Factory

The Sperry Gyroscope Company Limited was founded in the U.K. It started with a factory in Pimlico, London in 1913, manufacturing gyroscopic compasses for the Royal Navy. Production in Britain of the Sperry MK1 Gyrocompass commenced shortly after.  We regard this major event to be the birthplace and time of our present day company.

1913 - H.M. Submarine E.1

Sperry's first Gyro Compass for the Royal Navy, used in H.M.Submarine E.1

1913-1914 - Mk2 Gyro

Mk2 Gyro to be used by the Royal Navy initially fitted to HMS St Vincent.

During the War - World War I British Navy

During WWI another Sperry product was developed called "Metal Mike" which was the first gyro pilot system for ship's steering. The impact of the war on Sperry Gyro business was tremendous. Not only did the U.S. purchase the Sperry gyrocompass, but so did the British, French, Italian and Russian navies!

1914 - First Airplane Stabiliser

The first Airplane Stabilliser from Sperry. Lawrence Sperry won 50,00 francs for his demonstration over Paris.

1917 - First Guided 'Missile'

Sperry's first Guided 'Missile'. Elmer Sperry built the first aerial torpedo in 1917 which later became the first successful guided missile.  Seen here being launched from a Sopwith Cuckoo.

1917 - The Kearfott Company

The Kearfott Company was founded as a defence equipment manufacturer.  This company represents one of the main roots of the present day Silicon Sensing 'family tree' and later became absorbed into the Plessey Company formed the very same year.

1917 - The Plessey Company

The Plessey Company was also founded in 1917, it was a international electronics, defence and telecommunications company.  See Kearfott (1917).


1922 - S.S. 'J.A.Moffett'

Sperry's first Ship's Gyro Pilot for merchant ships is fitted in S.S. 'J. A. Moffett Jr.'.

1924 - Bendix Corporation

Bendix Corporation, an engineering company, was founded. It later acquired Timex (See 1978). 

1929 - Blind Flying Panel

Sperry's first Blind Flying Panel. Elmer Sperry invented a gyroscopically stabilized bombsight, and combined his aerial gyrocompass, artificial horizon and radio beacons to achieve the first blind flight in 1929 by Jimmy Doolittle.


1930 - Elmer Sperry's Passing

After setting up eight companies and taking out over 400 patents, Elmer Sperry died on 16 June 1930. He died at St. John's Hospital, Brooklyn, from complications which set in after he had recovered from an operation for gallstones. 

1934 - The Hurricane

The Hurricane used Sperry's gyroscope stabilisation technology.

1934 - United Technologies Corporation

Founded 1934 as United Aircraft, name changed in 1975 to United Technologies Corporation. The company is formed from the amalgamation of Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, and Hamilton Sundstrand.  UTC Aerospace Systems is the present day 50% shareholder in Silicon Sensing (See 2012).

1938 - The Spitfire

The Spitfire used some of Sperry's first flight detection units.

1939 - Northrop Aircraft Incorporated

Northrop Aircraft Inc. was founded in Hawthorne, California, by John K. “Jack” Northrop, a skilled and innovative engineer.  A strand of their gyroscope business was later acquired by Allied Signal (see 1985).


1943 - Type 21 Frigate

UK Royal Navy Type 21 Frigate uses Sperry Mk 19 gyrocompass for attitude and heading reference.

1945 - Mk 23 Gyro Compass

Mk 23 Gyro Compass.

1948 - Harbour Supervision Radar

Sperry's first Harbour Supervision Radar - First in the world in Liverpool.


1950 - CL11 Directional Gyro

The first CL11 gyro was released. It was used in a helicopter attitude control systems and is still in service today, 60 years later!

1952 - Radioplane Company

Northrop acquires Radioplane Company, a manufacturer of target drones, which was established in 1935 by WWI Royal Flying Corps veteran Reginald Denny.  Denny emigrated to the USA after the war and became a Hollywood actor with a passion for model planes.  The picture shows Marilyn Monroe holding the propeller of an RP-5.

1954 - Inertial Navigation System

Sperry's first British Inertial Navigation System takes flight.

1957 - RAF C130 Hercules

RAF C130 Hercules uses the GM9 Compass System, which was based on the CL11 Directional Gyro.

1959 - Northrop Corporation

Because of the changing character of its business, Northrop Aircraft Incorporated changes its name to Northrop Corporation, along with a new company logo.


1962 - Type 22 Frigate and Type 23 Frigates

Type 22 and Type 23 Frigates use Sperry Gyro Compasses.

1964 - Condor Pacific

Condor Pacific was established in 1964 to manufacture miniature mechanical, spinning wheel gyros.  Condor later went on to acquire Allied Signal's gyro manufacturing business (1999) and shortly afterwards was itself acquired by BAE Systems (2002).

1968 - Kearfott Division

The Singer Company forms the Kearfott Division.

1968 - Marconi Electronics Systems

Marconi Electronic Systems was formed following its acquisition of Marconi in 1968, GEC used the Marconi brand for all its defence business interests.  GEC Marconi acquired Plessey in 1988 and as a result found itself in the business of making spinning mass gyroscopes used in missile guidance systems.


1970 - Twin Gyro Unit

Twin Gyro Unit.  Used in a long range guided missile navigation system.

1974 - RAF Nimrod

RAF Nimrod search and reconnaisance aircraft fitted with Sperry gyroscopes.

1977 - British Aerospace

British Aerospace was formed as a statutory corporation as a result of the UK Aircraft and Shipbuilders Industries Act in which the publicly owned aerospace company was privatised.  It went on to acquire Sperry in 1982 then, in the merger with GEC Marconi in 1999, formed the new BAE Systems.


1980 - LINS300

British Aerospace develops the LINS300 Ring Laser Gyroscope Navigation System for military aircraft.

1982 - Rapier Platform

The UK Army's air defence weapon missile, Rapier, uses gas powered spinning wheel gyros in the autopilot system.

1982 - British Aerospace acquires the Sperry Gyroscope Company

British Aerospace acquires the Sperry Gyroscope Company.

1985 - VSG-1 Ceramic Cup

Vibrating Structure Gyroscope (VSG) is born - The first solid-state 'Coriolis' gyroscope is developed by the company.  This new technology paved the way for the present day 3rd, 4th and 5th generation MEMS gyroscopes produced by the company.

1985 - AlliedSignal

Allied Signal was an American aerospace, automotive and engineering company created through the 1985 merger of Allied Corp. and Signal Companies. It acquired Bendix Corp. gyroscope business which was later sold to Condor Pacific Industries in 1999.

1986 - Tilting Train

The Italian Pendolino Tilting Train uses VSG solid state rate sensors for stability control in high speed banked turns

1987 - Kearfott Guidance and Navigation

Singer split Kearfott into two separate divisions; Kearfott Guidance and Navigation, which was sold to the Astronautics Corporation of America in 1988; and the Electronic Systems Division, which was acquired by GEC- Marconi in 1990. The company was re-named GEC-Marconi Electronic Systems.

1988 - Plessey and GEC Merger

Plessey and GEC merged their telecommunications businesses. In the same year, GEC and Siemens AG formed a joint-venture company and launched a takeover bid for Plessey. The takeover was completed in September 1989.


1992 - ALARM

ALARM: UK RAF Air-Launched Anti-Radar Missile.  BAE Systems Inertial Products Division produced a complete IN system using microflex spinning wheel gyroscopes.

1995 - VSG-2 Metal Ring

Vibrating Structure Gyroscope 2: The second generation Coriolis gyroscope from the company.  This gyro used a vibrating solid metal ring.

1998 - VSG-3 Silicon Ring

VSG-3 represents the company's first foray into the new world of MEMS inertial sensors.  Over 20 million VSG-3 MEMS gyroscopes have been supplied to customers and it's still in production over 13 years later.  VSG-3 has a unique resonating silicon MEMS ring.

1999 - BAE Systems

BAE Systems was formed following the merger of The General Electric Company’s (GEC) defence arm, Marconi Electronic Systems, with British Aerospace.

1999 - Silicon Sensing Systems Ltd

Silicon Sensing Systems Ltd formed by BAE Systems UK and Sumitomo Precision Products of Japan.  The purpose of the new Joint Venture company was to exploit the high volume potential of this new technology in commercial markets.

1999 - Condor Pacific Manufacture

Condor Pacific acquires the Allied Signal mechanical gyroscope business located in the USA.


2001 - Humphrey Inc.

Goodrich acquires Humphrey, Inc. which included the manufacture of spring wound mechanical gyroscopes used in a number of aerosapce and military aplications.

2001 - Car Braking System

The first car braking system uses Silicon Sensing's VSG-3 MEMS gyro as the yaw rate sensor for the Electronic Stability System (ESC).

2001 - Segway

The Segway Human Transport, a novel self-balancing two-wheeled mode of personal transport uses a balance sensor assembly using VSG-3.

2002 - Inertial Products

BAE Systems acquires Condor Pacific and forms the BAE Systems Inertial Products Division.

2005 - VSG-4 Silicon Ring

VSG-4.  The fourth generation VSG uses a capacitive drive and detection technology.  Still in mass production today.

2006 - Seawolf Missile

Royal Navy Vertical Launch Seawolf Missile is the World's missile system to enter into service with an all-MEMS Inertial Measurement Unit (SiIMU01) developed by BAE Systems.

2007 - Atlantic Inertial Systems

J.F. Lehman & Company, a US based private equity investment company, acquires BAE Systems' Inertial Products Division which it renamed Atlantic Inertial Systems.

2008 - 10,000,000 MEMS Gyro

Silicon Sensing delivers the 10,000,000th MEMS gyro.

2009 - Goodrich Aquires Atlantic Inertial Systems

Goodrich acquires Atlantic Inertial Systems


2010 - PinPoint using VSG-5

PinPoint® is launched; a tiny, yet powerful MEMS gyroscope suitable for applications where navigation and pointing accuracy is essential.  It uses VSG-5 technology in which the silicon ring is excited using thin film PZT actuators and detectors.

2011 - Atlantic Inertial Systems

Atlantic Inertial Systems develops the World's first MEMS IMU capable of surviving the gun-launch shock of a guided projectile fired from a howitzer.

2012 - UTC Aerospace Systems

UTC acquires Goodrich. The company was renamed UTC Aerospace Systems. 

2012 - Orion™

Orion™ combines high performance single-axis angular rate and dual-axis linear acceleration measurement in a small surface mounted package.

2012-2013 - 1,000,000th Pinpoint®

Silicon Sensing delivers the 1,000,000th PinPoint® precision navigation and pointing gyroscope.

2013 - Gemini

Silicon Sensing's first MEMS accelerometer; Gemini Commercial Accelerometer.


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