Colt SWORD: Bringing Guns, Android Phones and Drones Together

Photo © Bryan Jones

The Colt SWORD (Sniper Weapon & Observer Reconnaissance Devices) Technology Demonstrator connects a variety of COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) and MOTS (Military Off-The-Shelf) components together into a deployable package. The system is hard to describe in a single sentence. Colt describe it as “a Small Arms Fire Control System based upon Colt Canada’s Patented Small Arms Network Power Data System”. It is probably best described as a local area wireless network of sensors, communications, power systems and video feeds that can receive and transmit data to/from a wider area military or government networks if required. The heart of the system is a 3G wireless base station. The base station is a fully integrated battery powered system that can be connected to external systems via. satellite modems if required. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the base station, just imagine a green rectangular box about 12″x12″x4″ with two antennas on the top.


Photo © Bryan Jones

Photo © Bryan Jones

Photo © Bryan Jones

Each solider using SWORD  has an Android mobile phone attached to their rifle, currently they are using the rugged CAT B15 Android smartphone that can be purchased for $350 off-the-shelf. The phone acts as a communications device as well as the solider’s SWORD graphical user interface. The phone communicates with the rest of the rifle, and is powered, through its USB port.

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Each weapon (rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers) contain a GPS sensor, IMU (inertial measurement unit containing a compass and accelerometers) and range finder. The data from all these sensors can be viewed by any other user on the network. All the sensors communicate through a powered picatinny rail communications bus. The communications protocol is ethernet.

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A camera is integrated into off-the-shelf scopes by using a prism that attached to the end of the scope. Not unlike the prism found inside Digital SLR camera, used for their phase detection autofocus, it siphons off protons and directs them to a highly sensitive camera sensor. This sensor then transmits a video feed so any user on the network can see feeds from any other users. The prism only reduces the light through the scope by 5%. This scope sensor can also be integrated into spotting scopes.

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A central tablet, which currently runs the ancient Windows CE still popular in military devices,  allows a commander to see the position of all the network users, can designate targets and even see what targets each solider is aiming at (based on the direction and angle of their weapons). Fire solutions can be calculated and displayed based on the type of weapon and ammunition being used. It can even alert soldiers automatically if they are aiming in the direction of a friendly.

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The final component of the system is a quad-copter  (four propellor) done that can be controlled by the commander through the tablet, or any other user through the phone or the sensor unit mounted on their weapons. The drone has a video camera providing a video feed to everyone on the ground. The drone flies itself, all that is required is to tell it where to go.

Colt plans on integrating all sorts of fancy software functionality into this system, such as target recognition, passive tracking / ranging and facial recognition of targets.

The system is definitely a technology demonstrator, Colt don’t make a secret of this, many of the parts of 3D printed, but it is functional. It will be interesting to see how SWORD develops in the future.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • mechamaster

    I see the Land Warrior program revival !

  • ABeiruty

    The future of infantry war is today!

    • gunslinger

      All the CoD commanders can now show up!

  • wetcorps

    Wow this is a huge progress. If this catches on, soldiers will be able to justify their failures by complaining about lag, just like PC gamers do 😀
    Subsequently, online FPS will be rendered more realistic. It’s a win-win ^^

  • Johnny

    The throw everything at it and hope it sticks school of engineering design. This industry needs a Steve Jobs.

  • 400×40

    This is very exciting! Technology is the future. FYI, I’m taking an Android development class through My point is not to plug Coursera, but to make the point that they are offering amazing courses for free, and the quality is pretty good. In my Android class there are about 100,000 students, and from what I can tell most are not Americans.
    My point is that I wish that more Americans would realize that technology is the future, and the rest of the world is not going to sit back and wait. They are aggressively jumping into programs like (and others).

    I’m an avoid shooter and former competitive marksman, and I’m already thinking about Android applications for shooters like me. I’m glad that someone has already taken things this far. I hope to see more hi-tech applications that are practical and accessible for “regular” shooters. We might see the day when it will make sense to throw away our pad and pen, and allow for hand-held apps to make our hobbies easier and more productive.

    Sorry for the soap-box-like ramble!

  • whodywei…

  • Gryphonlore

    Well, anyone with 2X WWII-era radio direction finders can map and locate all our troops… is that a good thing?

  • ColaBox

    Behold the future of the tacticool rifle.

  • Danmaku

    Siphons off “photons” not “protons” right? The first is an packet of light energy, the other is a sub-atomic particle.

  • Fetus

    Saw a live demo of this at SHOT at the ATAC Mil/LE range day. It is still in development. He said it was Model-0. I was skeptical but walked away very impressed. The drone is autonomous, basically point and click on a map. The drone located a target behind a berm 350m away that was not visible to the shooter. It relayed targeting information to the shooter holding a grenade launcher with the Droid setup. He pointed it in the direction of the target and angled the grenade launcher based with info provided by the side mounted Droid. Live feed from the drone showed an effective hit within 1-2 meters of the target.

  • jkkkk-kkkkj

    detectability is no problem. this kind of technology with face detection, small drones and the like is meant for police like engagements and will be used against civilians, terrorists and in uprisings and not against real military. people with improvised weapons don’t have jammers and detection equipment. plus programs like prism will take them away from them before they can use them. also war is no game like in social networks. not even companies are. normal soldiers don’t need the level of situational awareness displayed here. maybe they should just include facebook integration and future conflicts will be solved by chat or private messages.