The Self-Guided Bullet That Strikes Its Target From a Mile Away

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 2 2012 10:57 AM

The Self-Guided Bullet That Strikes Its Target From a Mile Away

Two researchers from Sandia National Laboratories have created a four-inch bullet that can hit a target a mile away. How? A laser points at the target, and an optical sensor on the bullet locks in. Little fins on the bullet keep it from spinning and help “steer” its path. Officials told the Associated Press that the smart bullet can “make up to thirty corrections per second while in the air” while traveling as fast as 2,400 feet per second. And, as IO9 points out, “ preliminary tests suggest that increasing a target's distance actually improves the the [sic] projectile's accuracy by giving it more time to adjust its flight path.”

Right now, it’s just a prototype, and “engineering issues remain,” a Sandia press release concedes. But its inventors are confident that they will have a working version soon. According to Smart Planet, the researchers “are seeking a private company partner to complete testing and bring a guided bullet to the marketplace.” Sandia anticipates that in addition to the military and law enforcement, “recreational shooters” may be interested in purchasing the so-called super bullets. Should the bullets end up working properly, it's not difficult to imagine a heated debate between gun control activists and Second Amendment supporters over whether they should be made available to the public. (I'm thinking of the debate over "cop killer" bullets here.)

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Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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