One of things which consistently amazes me about flight is the exceptional progress in the early decades of flight - especially in terms of avionics. Wikipedia tells me that the first ILS landing was in 1938.

I'd like to understand more about the early development of gyroscopic flight instruments - in particular, what the first instruments like? When were they first put to use?

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    $\begingroup$ The gyrocompass invention has been claimed by Sperry and Anschütz-Kaempfe for the naval industry. In 1914 both tried to sold one to the German navy, Anschütz-Kaempfe sued Sperry. Einstein himself demonstrated to the German court that Anschütz-Kaempfe was right. Other litigations in the US and GB were lost. According to Wikipedia: "The first functional gyrocompass was patented in 1904 by German inventor Hermann Anschütz-Kaempfe" $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Nov 28 '15 at 18:08

It appears that the first gyroscopic flight instrument in aviation was a gyroscopic stabilizer, with the purpose of maintaining stability and control in a Curtiss C-2 biplane; it was first used (publicly) in 1914.

For this, the inventors, Elmer A and Lawrence B Sperry were awarded the Collier Trophy in 1914. Apparently they did this by,

...linking the control surfaces with three gyroscopes, allowing flight corrections to be introduced based on the angle of deviation between the flight direction and the original gyroscopic settings.


Lawrence Sperry and gyroscopic stabilizer, Image from wright-brothers.org

The device (with the gyroscopes spinning at 7000 rpm) was first tested by Lawrence Sperry and Berringer on a Curtiss F aircraft in 1913, with the first public flight in 1914.

First gyro flight

Sperry’s second flyby in Paris in the 1914 competition, with Emil on the wing. Image from historicwings.com

Elmer went on to develop the turn and bank indicator and an optical drift indicator, for which he was awarded the Collier trophy again in 1916.

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    $\begingroup$ Wow, thanks for that - what incredible engineering $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Nov 26 '15 at 16:55

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