In 2012, Sandia National Laboratories out of Albuquerque,NM announced a self-guided bullet prototype that could track a target illuminated with a laser designator.
Take two Sandia National Laboratories engineers who are hunters, get them talking about the sport and it shouldn’t be surprising when the conversation leads to a patented design for a self-guided bullet that could help war fighters.
Sandia researchers Red Jones and Brian Kast and their colleagues have invented a dart-like, self-guided bullet for small-caliber, smooth-bore firearms that could hit laser-designated targets at distances of more than a mile (about 2,000 meters).
The corrections to the bullet’s path are made possible by a laser-tracking optical sensor located inside the bullet’s nose. Using an eight-bit CPU (also housed within the bullet) the optical sensor can communicate guidance information to the electromagnetic actuators that control the bullet’s fins.
Collectively, these components allow the bullet to first detect and then actively seek out quarry that has been targeted with a laser from more than a mile away. That means that if there’s a gust of wind, or the target moves, all the bullet has to do is find and follow the laser, which remains fixed on the target while the bullet is in flight.
What’s more, preliminary tests suggest that increasing a target’s distance actually improves the the projectile’s accuracy by giving it more time to adjust its flight path. Aerodynamic simulations reveal that under real-world conditions, your typical unguided bullet is liable to miss a target over half a mile away by close to thirty feet. According to a patent application recently filed by Sandia, the self-guided bullet would bring that number down to just eight inches.
The bullet can self-correct its navigational path 30 times a second, all while flying more than twice the speed of sound…and hitting targets over a mile away.