Self-balancing robots are a common hacker project, but we don’t often see them using spinning gyroscopes to achieve that balance. Robot master [James Bruton] decided to build a robotic platform with active gyroscopic stabilization, starting from a simple proof of concept.
A gyroscope can balance, but cannot actively counteract external forces directly. However, if the gyroscope is tilted around an axis it will exert a force perpendicular to that axis of tilt, known as gyroscopic precession. By tilting the gyroscope with an actuator, and orienting the gyroscope correctly, gyroscopic precession can be used for stabilization. This is known as a control moment gyroscope. [James] demonstrated this with a 3D printed proof of concept, which is used as an IMU to measure the angle of tilt, and use a PID loop to correct the imbalance with a servo actuating the gyroscope.
His second platform used a pair of gyroscopes spinning in opposite directions to compensate for any unintended gyroscopic precession along another axis. A pair of roller skate wheels allow the entire platform to roll along. Due to a slight imbalance in the platform, [James] noticed that the gyroscopes will continue to creep in one direction, until reaching the end-stops and falling over. By adding a second software controller to keep track of how much the gyroscopes have to move to maintain balance, it can continuously calculate and update the balancing point. This prevents the gyroscopes from hitting the end stops.
Control moment gyroscopes are commonly used for attitude control on spacecraft, and to reduce the rolling motion of boats in waves. [James] has plans to combine a control moment gyroscope with the more conventional balancing method, to balance a robot on a single wheel.