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.

    colt sword-4

    colt sword-5

    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.

    colt sword-7

    colt sword-8

    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.

    colt sword-2

    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.

    colt sword-1-2

    colt sword-2-2

    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

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!