We investigate if the degradation of a quantum directional reference frame through repeated use can be modeled as a classical direction undergoing a random walk on a sphere. We demonstrate that the behaviour of the fidelity for a degrading quantum directional reference frame, defined as the average probability of correctly determining the orientation of a test system, can be fit precisely using such a model. Physically, the mechanism for the random walk is the uncontrollable back-action on the reference frame due to its use in a measurement of the direction of another system. However, we find that the magnitude of the step size of this random walk is not given by our classical model and must be determined from the full quantum description.
Bibliographical note5 pages, no figures. Comments are welcome. v2: several changes to clarify the key results. v3: journal reference added, acknowledgements and references updated