May 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM ET
A laser-guided smart bullet that uses tiny fins to steer as is screams through the air is almost ready for prime time, be it a battlefield or a high-mountain deer hunt.
The bullet is under development at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, where it was thought up by a pair of engineers there who spend a chunk of their free time out hunting.
The four-inch-long projectile is reported to improve long-distance marksmanship by about 98 percent, at a distance between 1 and 2 kilometers.
To do so, an optical sensor in the bullet’s nose detects a laser beam shining on a distant target. The sensor sends information to guidance and control electronics that steer tiny fins that guide the bullet to the target.
Word of the smart bullet’s development first surfaced in January. Today, IEEE Spectrum reports that Sandia is wrapping up prototype tests and actively seeking a commercial partner to turn out field-ready bullets.
Larry Shippers, manager of systems technology at Sandia, told IEEE that the technology has already proven skeptics wrong – the battery and chip survive being fired out of a .50-caliber rifle.
“Launch tests found that the monition’s innards did indeed stand up to the crushing 120,000 g-force acceleration and 344.7 megapascals (50,000 pounds per square inch) of pressure as the bullet comes hurtling out of the barrel,” the website reports.
This makes one hope the materials scientists we reported on Thursday who are working on next-generation armor hurry up and get it done.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.