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Machine Design

What’s the Difference Between Pitch, Roll, and Yaw?

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Vehicles that are free to operate in three dimensions, such as aircraft and submarines, can change their attitude and rotation about the three orthogonal axes centered on the vehicle’s center of gravity — the longitudinal, vertical, and horizontal axes. Motion about the longitudinal axis is termed roll and in aircraft determines how much the wings are banked. Motion about the perpendicular axes is called yaw and for aircraft it determines which way the nose is pointed. (Note: Aircraft do not necessarily fly in the same direction as the nose is pointed if there are significant winds.) Motion about the lateral axis is called pitch and it’s a measure of how far an airplane’s nose is tilted up or down.

Cars also experience pitch, roll, and yaw, but the amounts are relatively small and are usually the result of the suspension reacting to turns, accelerations, and road conditions.

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