Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The 'self-aiming' rifle and GPS tracking bullets

Another area that is getting in the news lately in the field of new military technology is the 'self-aiming' rifle.   TrackingPoint in Austin, Texas has the Precision Guided Firearm (PGF) which is available to buy from USD 9,950.00.  All that is required is to "paint" the target through the rifle scope using a type of "lock and launch" technology.  After the operator has pulled the trigger, the gun itself will use complex algorithms to take into account things such as wind, arm shake, recoil, air temperature, and even the bullet dropping due to gravity.  When the conditions are ideal, the gun will fire the bullet at the target. The level of training required to operate a PGF is much less than that of a sniper, opening up the use of such a powerful long range weapon to a wider group of people - including hunters, but also possible terrorists and insurgents. 

One ethical concern the PGF raises is what happens if the operator changes their mind regarding the target, after it has been painted, but before the bullet is fired.  Another very concerning development with this gun is the fact that it also has wifi capability, allowing others to watch remotely what is being seen through the scope of the gun - raising the possibility of a real time perversion known as "war porn".  More worryingly however, the gun is able to be accessed using wifi and a smart phone - making the use of this weapon from a distance much more likely, with the operator not having the full picture of the battlespace, that an on the ground sniper would have.  It also raises the distinct possibility of the gun being hacked, and used on inappropriate targets - be they friendly forces or non-combatants.

Precision Guided Firearms

DARPA in conjunction with Teledyne Scientific & Imaging have been doing extensive research on guidance ordinance, in the form of guided small caliber bullets (50-caliber).  The Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance (EXACTO) program is researching ways to increase sniper accuracy, through the combination of a maneuverable bullet with a real time guidance system, which allows the bullet to change its flight path to take into account any factors that may push it off course.  

Testing of the EXACTO ordinance in 2014