Laser-Guided Smart Bullet Prototype

A testable prototype of Sandia National Laboratory's smart bullet is almost ready.

(Sandia Laser-Guided Smart Bullet prototype diagram)

An infrared laser illuminates a target, which the bulletís optical sensors follow. An onboard tracking chip calculates the course corrections, carried out by four actuator-controlled fins on the bulletís body. The end result, says Larry Shipers, manager of system technologies at Sandia, is a bullet that could improve its shooterís marksmanship by 98 percent, at distances between 1 and 2 kilometers. 

Shipers says the technology has already cleared a hurdle that experts had said couldnít be overcome: the survival of the battery and chip, despite their being fired out of a .50-caliber rifle. Launch tests found that the munitionís innards did indeed stand up to the crushing 120 000 g-force acceleration and 344.7 megapascals (50 000 pounds per square inch) of pressure as the bullet comes hurtling out of the barrel. The next step is to find a commercial partner that can turn the ideas now being bench-tested into a field-ready bullet. 

Fans of Michael Crichton's 1984 movie Runaway recall the smart bullets, five-inch fire-and-forget self-tracking bullet-missiles.

(Smart bullet dissected)

"Jack, look at this. The back half is all solid propellant. Valves for directional control ... look, it's all electronic."

Via IEEE Spectrum.

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