This New Self-Guided Bullet Is Nailing Targets Over A Mile Away

The possibilities for failure in long-range shooting are as immense as they are mind-numbing. Pitch, yaw, air density, heat, cold, the curve of the earth, and the planet’s rotation on its axis all conspire make shots at half-a-mile miss, on average, by about 30 feet.

Sandia Labs looks like they’ve changed all that with their new self-guided round, which sheds enough convention that it resembles a small missile more than a traditional bullet (via Katie Drummond at Danger Room).

Four-inches long, laser-guided, while sporting fins and a forward centre of gravity, Sandia’s bullet has an optical sensor in the nose that guides it to the target, while an eight-bit processor running a proprietary algorithm steers the round as it flies. Sandia expects the new technology to be developed quickly and inexpensively.

Because of the bullet’s diminutive size compared to, say, a full-scale missile, the same flight corrections can be performed dozens of times per second in its Mach 2.1 flight. Sandia’s engineers expect to raise that speed to military requirements using customised gunpowder.

The following video shows the bullet leaving the barrel of a rifle. The round pitches (wobbles up and down) a lot after firing, but calms the farther it flies—an effect called “going to sleep” by experts. This phenomenon allows the round to achieve greater accuracy the farther it flies; a result that surprised everyone involved. 

Guided BulletA small light attached to the round charts its path during a nighttime field test at Sandia Labs

Photo: Sandia Labs

Guided BulletThe four-inch-long bullet has actuators that steer tiny fins that guide it to its target

Photo: Sandia Labs

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