Nobody wants to expose their head while shooting around a corner, and there have been plenty of attempts to solve the problem from WWII to the present day. The latest solution: a lightweight gun camera for shooting around corners with built-in night vision.It’s meant for Special Forces, this Smartsight is still on the secret list — though open-source documents give a pretty good idea of its capabilities.
Ten years in development, Smartsight features a camera in a seven-inch tube that clips to the barrel of an M4 SOPMOD carbine. The image, with an overlaid target crosshairs, is sent back wirelessly to a computer carried by the shooter, linked to small heads-up video display over the left eye.
There are a couple of key advantages to this setup. First, it’s wireless, so you can reach anywhere with the rifle – over a wall, through a hatch in the floor, around a corner, down a pipe – without any limitations of reach or getting tangled in cables. Unlike the other alternatives, your head doesn’t need to be anywhere near the weapon.
Secondly, it has its own covert illumination, courtesy of a built-in infra-red laser. Use a periscope inside a tunnel and all you see is darkness. With Smartsight you can see the bad guys first, without them seeing you.
If you look at Smartsight as just another wireless video camera, you might wonder why it took so long and cost so much to get it working. The initial contract was granted in 1999, and since then development has cost over $3.5 million. In an interview with his local paper, the Union Democrat, SmartSight developer Matthew Hegarty of Landtec Inc. explains that building the 12-pound prototype was relatively easy. The hard part was making it small, light and rugged enough to be useful in the field. Special Forces already carry a huge amount of equipment, and the last thing they want is another 12 pounds added to the load. The new version is down to half a pound, and waterproofed to two atmospheres.
The other hard part was getting funding: SmartSight ended up being a “Congressional add-on” after Hegarty got his local Representative to take an interest in the development. So the military themselves may not have been demanding the product… but Hegarty’s campaign donations to the said Congressman suggest his appreciation.
There were also some refinements to the wireless video signal to prevent jamming or interference, plus making sure it was compatible with other pieces of kit. The system has a built-in video recorder for post-mission analysis, and by beaming the signal back to commanders the Smartsight can provide real-time surveillance and mission planning. In theory, a sniper could line up a target in the video crosshairs and ask headquarters for confirmation that this was the right individual before pulling the trigger. (In practice I rather doubt it.)
It’s easy to think of tactical uses for the Smartsight, and it’s sure to be on a lot of people’s wish list. The nearest thing to Smartsight on the open market is the Guncam, produced by Macroswiss. However, this relies on a spiral cable to connect the camera to the user, and lacks the infra-red illuminator, so it’s hardly a substitute. However, Hegarty told Danger Room that no information is being released for the time being. Special Forces budget documents suggest that the unit is being (or has been) shipped this year