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An inertial navigation system (INS) is a navigation aid that uses a computer, motion
sensors (accelerometers) and rotation sensors (gyroscopes) to continuously
calculate via dead reckoning the position, orientation, and velocity (direction and
speed of movement) of a moving object without the need for external references.
An Inertial Navigation System consists of the following:
An Inertial Measurement Unit
Instrument support electronics
Navigation computers calculate the gravitational acceleration and doubly integ
rate the net acceleration to maintain an estimate of the position of the
host vehicle.
Two common systems used in Inertial Navigation:
1. Stable Platform systems
How it works?

The gyros of a type known as integrating gyros give an output proportional t

o the angle through which they have been rotated

Output of each gyro connected to a servomotor driving the appropriate gimba

l, thus keeping the gimbal in a constant orientation in inertial space

The gyros also contain electrical torque generators which can be used to crea
te a fictitious input rate to the gyros

Applications of electrical input to the gyro torque generators cause the gimbal
torque motors/servos to null the difference between the true gyro input rate an
d the electrically applied bias rate. This forms a convenient means of cancellin
g out any drift errors in the gyro.

Figure 1-Gimbaled Inertial Platform

Figure 2-Gimbaled System Example

2. Strapdown System

Accelerometers mounted directly to airframe and measure body acceleration

Horizontal/vertical accelerations computed analytically using Direction Cosine

Matrix (DCM) relating body coordinated and local level navigation coordinate

Direction Cosine Matrix (DCM) computed using strapdown body

mounted gyro outputs

Figure 3-Strapdown System

Figure 4-Strapdown System Exmple

Advantages of Inertial Navigation

instantaneous output of position and velocity

completely self contained

all weather global operation

very accurate azimuth and vertical vector measurement

error characteristics are known and can be modeled quite well

works well in hybrid systems

Disadvantages of Inertial Navigation

Position/velocity information degrade with time (1-2NM/hour).

Equipment is expensive ($250,000/system) - older systems had relatively

high failure rates and were expensive to maintain

newer systems are much more reliable but still expensive to repair

Initial alignment is necessary - not much of a disadvantage for commercial

airline operations (12-20 minutes)

Mohinder S. Grewal, "Global Positioning Systems, Inertial Navigation, and Integration"
Wiley-Interscience; Book&Disk edition (December 15, 2000)
Savant, C.F. et al. Principles of Inertial Navigation McGraw-Hill (1961)
Wie, Bong Space Vehicle Dynamics and Control AIAA Education Series (1998)