As this firefly comets through the desert, I gain an appreciation for the smallest, most beautiful thing that paints me a picture out of pure light. How wonderful life seems for a moment.
But it’s no firefly. This is actually a newly developed, self-guiding bullet by Sandia National Laboratories. Designed for contemporary guns, this 4-inch smart bullet steers itself through the air, making 30 precision adjustments per second, to strike a laser-targeted spot over a mile away.
Whereas most bullets spiral through the air, Sandia’s bullet flies balanced, like a miniature airplane. Tiny electromagnetic actuators make micro adjustments to tail fins that slice through the air. And as you can see in that almost-inspiring lead photo, in which an onboard LED traces the bullet’s path, the journey is anything but straight. In fact, the flight path can actually over-correct rather than attempt precision calculations at every turn, and still reach a target that’s over half a mile away within an 8-inch range (by comparison, an unguided bullet could miss by as much as 27 feet). And the longer the flight, the more of these approximate adjustments can be made, meaning that the longer the bullet flies, the more accurate it becomes.
Indeed, the bullet’s entire design has a dark brilliance to it, using a bullet’s primary limitation (range) as its strength. But still, did they need to present it so gorgeously? I’ll never look at another light painting the same way again, knowing that a bullet could take the place of any flashlight in the dark.