ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Sandia National Laboratories engineers have invented a bullet that directs itself to a target like a tiny guided missile and can hit a target more than a mile away, the New Mexico-based lab announced Tuesday.
According to Sandia Labs engineers, the bullet twists and turns to guide itself toward a laser-directed point. It can make up to thirty corrections per second while in the air, officials said.
Sandia technical staff member Jim Jones said he thinks the .50-caliber bullets would work well with military machine guns so soldiers could hit their mark faster and with precision.
"We've tested gunpowders to see if we can get muzzle velocity for military interest," Jones told KRQE-TV ( http://bit.ly/zWnd2n). "We've tested various electronic components to see if they would survive the launch."
Testing has shown the bullet can reach speeds of 2,400 feet per second. Researchers said they were confident the bullet could reach standard military speeds using customized gunpowder.
Computer simulations showed an unguided bullet under real-world conditions could miss a target more than a half mile away. But according to the patent, a guided bullet would get within eight inches.
Sandia Labs is seeking a private company partner to complete testing of the prototype and bring a guided bullet to the marketplace. Research and development grants have taken the project this far.
Researchers have had initial success testing the design in computer simulations and in field tests of prototypes, built from commercially available parts, Jones said.
Sandia Labs said the design for the 4-inch-long bullet includes an optical sensor in the nose to detect a laser beam on a target. The sensor sends information to guidance and control electronics that use an algorithm in an eight-bit central processing unit to command electromagnetic actuators. These actuators steer tiny fins that guide the bullet to the target.