A gyroscope is a device for measuring or maintaining orientation, based on the principles of conservation of angular momentum. In essence, a mechanical gyroscope is a spinning wheel or disk whose axle is free to take any orientation. Although this orientation does not remain fixed, it changes in response to an external torque much less and in a different direction than it would without the large angular momentum associated with the disk's high rate of spin and moment of inertia. Since external torque is minimized by mounting the device in gimbals, its orientation remains nearly fixed, regardless of any motion of the platform on which it is mounted.
Gyroscopes based on other operating principles also exist, such as the electronic, microchip-packaged MEMS gyroscope devices found in consumer electronic devices, solid-state ring lasers, fibre optic gyroscopes, and the extremely sensitive quantum gyroscope.
Applications of gyroscopes include inertial navigation systems where magnetic compasses would not work (as in the Hubble telescope) or would not be precise enough (as in ICBMs), or for the stabilization of flying vehicles like radio-controlled helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles. Due to their precision, gyroscopes are also used to maintain direction in tunnel mining.