The self-guided bullet (via Sandia National Laboratories)
TrackingPoint recently released a series of customizable rifles that features an elaborate compact (for what it is) tracking scope system that allows the shooter to accurately place shots on moving targets (with little training) much like an aimbot for FPS video games. While the TrackingPoint platform will undoubtedly make snipers that much more lethal, a new type of bullet that is self-guided will make them unmatched on the battlefield. A team of engineers, led by Red Jones and Brian Kast, from Sandia National Laboratories (New Mexico) designed a ‘dart-like’ projectile that’s self-guided smart bullet capable of hitting targets over a mile in distance.
At those distances, even the best-trained elite sharpshooters using .338 Lapua or .50 rounds are extremely lucky to land a bullet on target. When shooting out to 1,000 meters and beyond nature becomes a key factor in sending rounds down range. Wind, temperature, pressure and even the earth’s rotation (Coriolis Effect) become an increased factor in determining where the bullet will hit. The Sandia engineer’s bullet design takes all those factors and does away with them by making the bullet self-guiding which functions like most modern day bombs and missiles. The four-inch long projectile features an optical sensor inside the nose of the bullet, which locks on to a laser that is centered on the target. The sensor then sends that information to the bullet’s guidance system, which in turn moves tiny actuators for the projectiles fins enabling it to fly towards the target. The round is not fired from a rifled barrel like conventional rounds but rather through a smooth bore. Traditional rifle barrels enable the bullet to spin thereby increasing its distance as well as providing a stable and straight flight. The guided round uses a plastic sabot casing over the round to protect the delicate fins and electronics from being destroyed while being discharged. Once the projectile leaves the barrel the plastic sabot splits in half and is ejected away from the bullet at which point the fins deploy and the round homes in on its target.
The team tested the round and found that using conventional gunpowder enabled the bullet to travel at a speed of 2,400 FPS (Feet per Second) without damaging the rounds onboard electronics. While that may seem fast its actually slower than the conventional rounds the military uses (5.56 and 7.62 rounds respectively) but the engineers state that their smart-bullet can use customized military gunpowder safely without damaging the projectile. Sandia National Laboratories is looking to not only the military as potential customers of their self-guided bullets but law enforcement and civilians as well. The bullet is still being developed so a release date and price point is not available yet but you can be rest assured that it will not come cheap. Not to mention the fact you will need some kind of laser designator to use it, which will add to the overall cost.
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