Either way we now have IRL aimbot.
I would imagine this would be simple in test cases, but in the real world, what about a hostile target may differentiate it from a friendly ally that is nearby?
What you'd like to do is put a drone in the air where you can lase 5 people, and have it precision assassinate them. Then have it loiter and wait till their colleagues show up, who, by observing their actions, you can assassinate them to.
The size of a bullet means you'd have a lot of operational time would be very long - you could carry hundreds of rounds on a drone, that would still be just as capable of disabling vehicles or hitting passengers.
The effective range of a Barrett M82 (50 Caliber rifle) is approximately 6,000 feet, and that's not shooting straight up.
Point blank (which, despite the common vernacular meaning 'really close', actually means 'the range of the bullet before you have to adjust for elevation') is 1500 feet, past that, gravity begins taking over.
TL;DR, the range of a Predator drone is definitely greater than the naked eye's visibility range, and even with optics, target acquisition is nearly impossible, and even if it weren't, unless it's flying very low relative to its ceiling, you can't hit it anyway.
25000 feet = 7620m, which approximates to 7.6 km ;)
6000 feet ~= 1800m
1500 feet ~= 450m
Some things never change...
spotter: acquire the target.
sniper: rodger. target acquired.
spotter: laser paint the target.
sniper: what color?
spotter: we should paint it blue according to IEEE 802.11eeek
sniper: But we're on the *RED* team! Not the blue team! dummy!
spotter: Don't call me a dummy. I read the IEEE spec. Did you?
sniper: We should paint it RED! according to IETF RFC-31337
spotter: No! No! No! 802.11eek clearly says blue!
sniper: I'M CERTAIIN IT SHOULD BE RED!!!111``
spotter: calm down or you'll miss (again, haha) and just use blue.
sniper: you started it with the "No!No!No!" crap. I want red.
spotter: you're too frustrated to type "certain" correctly. blue.
sniper: but I really wanted red, impending doom an all that.
spotter: with blue you'll get purple if you hit the damn target!
sniper: Oops! too late. target lost. he hid behind that bikeshed.
All sorts of known strategies applicable to e.g Hellfires come to mind (sorry for the dubious reference and descriptions, I recently unearthed old Comanche 3 and Longbow games): shoot timed salvos and light up targets in sequence, shoot blind and hidden then pop up and light up at the last second...
Wind has a larger effect that is evident even at shorter ranges. Bullets are fast, but during their time of flight they are blown around by the wind just like any other object passing through the air.
I could imagine some scenarios where indirect fire, perhaps coordinated with a drone that can light up the target with the laser, could be useful.
Sniper rifles already exist that can tag and track moving targets.
Which opens it up to being hacked... a smart enemy might cause bullets to veer away from him.
I sometimes think about the origins of the second amendment and if it's intent was to empower citizens against a potentially oppressive government then it has failed. US military technology might as well be black magic. What can a "well regulated militia" do against smart bullets, M1 Abrams, Apache helicopters, etc?
Thank goodness we are kept fat and happy.
The biggest threat is well paid mercenaries. It always has been.
Hogwash. Military technology is by definition the usurping of freedom. Always has, and always will be. You are born free - the machines are made to take it away from you.
Civil war was a civil war, with the country split into two sides. Regional bonds took precedence over national ones but the military of each faction sided with the people of their region. Japanese internment and native Americans involved minorities. The soldiers didn't come from those communities, and native americans were barely considered people much less Americans. It doesn't take much to get the majority to take action against a minority, but that's not an existential threat to democracy.
What you're saying, albeit you managed at least a bit of tact, is that Japanese internment and the genocide of Native Americans don't count as military-assisted oppression because "it was just the minorities".
The genocide of native Americans, slavery, segregation, and Japanese internment were all carried out consistently with the desires of the relevant polity of the time. When George Wallace stood in front of the school house and shouted "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" he didn't do it to try and impose his idiosyncratic view of the world. He did it because he knew it would endear him to "the people" of Alabama.
Well then, I don't care much for your notion of "democracy", and don't particularly understand why it would be worth defending or even necessarily better than minority rule in the first place.
Most reasonable definitions of democracy delineate between mere mob rule, and democracy as a governmental philosophy (including aspects like equality before the law).
The word "minority" conjures up images of the oppressed, but through most of human history, the minority have been the oppressors. The majority were, historically, ruled by the will of a minority of people that made up royal families, etc. Saudi Arabia, for example, is a society in which a minority rules the majority.
Now, of course, in a democracy the majority can use violence to suppress the minority. But that is in fact the bulwark of democracy: the majority using violence or the threat thereof to suppress royal families, warlords, etc. And while ideally the majority does not do this, oppressive rule by the majority is almost certainly preferable to any situation where the minority is in power.
two examples I can pluck from memory
If you took away the college loan forgiveness and other benefits of the military, you'd lose quite a bit of the force.
Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 percent came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods-a number that has increased substantially over the past four years.
-- Who Serves in the U.S. Military? The Demographics of Enlisted Troops and Officers
This concept is actually called "bread and circus", and was originally applied by mid-roman emperors to better control the populace and keep political satisfaction up. I'm kinda disappointed that the wikipedia article doesn't go into detail about this because it played a huge part in maintaining control of the empire.
You can't maintain a police state by blowing up houses. If you do that, you end up cutting off your only revenue source (taxing employed people), because your tax base either can't or won't work (because they're dead, the roads are impassable, etc.). In fact, this situation would actually be quite beneficial to an insurgency, because if an attacker can't pay or feed their foot soldiers, they will lose their army.
In the end, you need foot soldiers to maintain a police state. It's not economically feasible to give everyone state of the art sniper rifles like this, and spending 10x more money on soldiers doesn't make them 10x more effective.
It is exponentially harder to maintain a police state than to destroy one, which is why even poorly trained, poorly equipped insurgencies can effectively fight against well trained, well equipped governments. If the US government has problems with this in Vietnam and Iraq, imagine how much worse it would be if they tried the same thing on their own well-armed revenue source.
The US has ~2M active duty / reserve military members. The SR25 is a common choice for 'sniper' rifles in the military and costs about $5K new and kitted out. If this state of the art rifle costs 5x the typical rifle, it would cost $25B to outfit half of our current military with these weapons.
The US spends over $650B per year on our military, so that $25B would only represent 4% of our annual budget.
I always feel that "well-regulated militias" acting as a counterweight to the US government is a silly idea, because by the time a militia is called into action,
(1) the government can also mobilize all its shiny toys and crush whoever's in the way, and
(2) WTF were you doing while your country slid slowly and painfully into the level of present-day Iraq?
Additionally, vastly superior technology doesn't necessarily outweigh other factors. It certainly makes a huge difference but history is littered with counterexamples.
At least firehoses, dogs, and guns have a chance of illiciting sympathy from onlookers (e.g. the international community). Protesters on a big slip-n-slide will probably just end up on /r/funny.
The assumption isn't whether a government can get oppressive to the point where people fight. It's "Is our government so good that citizens will never have cause to oppose it, for the rest of human history?"
"nearly all the autocracies in the world with a higher [than $6000 ] per capita income are petro-states"
If by "we" you mean you and me, and people like us. Plenty of people are skipping meals to save money.
How would you organize your coup? The government listens to all your calls, reads your email/im, knows where you travel and what you buy.
You would be branded a terrorist and detained before you could say "unconstitutional".
Like guns would even make a difference...
The government doesn't actively need to attack people with their own agents. They just need to make it known that someone won't be protected, and let the criminal element do the rest. In some places, weapons for self-defense can be a defense against that kind of government.
First of all, have you seen how much of a fight low tech militias have put up against the U.S. lately?
Secondly, don't forget that the people trained to use that technology are U.S. citizens too and will fight for their family before they fight for their county (most of them anyway).
The trade off is lives saved today versus those lost tomorrow. If WW2 had been fought the same way it may have taken years longer. You do not end support for an enemy until you beat the population that supports them. There is no infinite number in resistance, ww2 proved that.
We should do away with the one we have now.
Like all of the Bill of Rights, it was about constraining the Federal government, not the Podunksville Police.
The TrackingPoint system is pretty awesome especially since it's tech which is available today and has some pretty neat applications such aiming through another device: http://www.military.com/video/guns/rifles/trackingpoint-shot...
So basically the gun has a LIDAR for range, IMU for gun attitude and a Linux computer inside. You tag your target and it will use some kind of machine vision algo to track it even if it moves. You hold down the trigger and it will automatically fire when you put the gun in the right place. It's not truly guided like the parent, so if it's a windy day you're still likely to miss, but under calm conditions you can pretty much guarantee a perfect shot.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBC8IFWC1P0 "Vice - The Rifle That Aims Itself"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mZB6NtCx38 Moving targets
However, having a Spotter in a different location than the Sniper (or Sniper + Spotter team) leads to other interesting capabilities. Things like, "I have the target marked, based on your current GPS position, just aim to the West."
Or is it something more ground-breakingly advanced?
The article also says it's designed to compensate for "weather, wind, or target movement", so my assumption is that the sniper has to keep the target in their sight at all times, but it can compensate for the bullet ending up off-course after it has left the barrel.
It doesn't make much sense that if you were developing an advanced weapons system that, other than to get out disinformation, it would be a good thing to tell exactly what you are doing in any detail at all.
What is the advantage of releasing any information at all other than:
1) To insure support and funding for projects
2) To scare the enemy.
3) To get the enemy to spend resources on the wrong thing
Just a hunch, having worked with some PR people before.
 Obama did this with revelations of cocaine usage. Once it was out there it wasn't a big juicy story to present. Media likes scoops, exclusives not just digging up old info (ala some HN posts) of things that perhaps people missed (unless there is an angle that they can work).
I guess here is the thing about old news. People must assume that if something were said in 2012 and nobody made a fuss about it then it's because it's not a big deal.
Why is there wasted space? As powders become more efficient, you need less powder to get the same result. Consider the age of the round - there's been a lot of development in powders in the interim.
I expect the next step will be fabrics that fluoresce in the visible spectrum when hit by IR or UV laser light to help warn people they are being 'designated.'
Translation: those poor suckers who try running sideways will still get hit with these new bullets.
Metal Storm: old but interesting. Mike O'Dwyer conceived of an idea for "a rapid-fire gun prototype ... can fire up to 1,000,000 rounds per minute, or 16,000 rounds per second."  to give extra fire-power for Special Forces soldiers. More details can be read here: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/transcripts/s167329.htm
cf:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Mike_O%27Dwyer
Also, there was a small company that had a show on the Discovery Channel for ~2 seasons called Howe & Howe Tech that produced a cool lightweight continuous track vehicle.
Unless, humans agreed to complete cessation of violence (intentional or not), which to my knowledge has never lasted more than a week in recorded history (of wars), someone will always try to kill someone else.
Although I don't support the Military Industry, I think projects like this have the potential to get less people killed in battle.
Seriously though. How do they plan to designate the target for this round?
"When powered up, the gun begins tracking targets via its infrared tracker mounted above the barrel. The tracker consists of a 256 x 256 element platinum-silicide focal plane array cooled to 770 degrees K by a tiny cryogenic gas cooler working on the Stirling principle. This system monitors a 30 degree cone in front of the gun and transmits high-resolution thermal images in the 8-10 um range to a miniature video display in the operator's eyepiece."
Thats all available technology - right now.
The effect of a temperature inversion, though, can be significant; it's possible that military laser designators use diverse wavelengths to avoid or compensate for it.
It works by negative feedback, like a servo; all the error terms in the middle cancel out. Neat!
 The refraction of a laser by air density variations is bound to be different from the ballistic effects of those same density variations on a bullet passing through them. But it doesn't matter, because the corrections are applied continually along the trajectory, not at the source.