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Nerf Vulcan Sentry Gun tracks targets and avoids friendly fire


July 11, 2013

The Nerf Vulcan Sentry Gun automatically locates targets and unleashes a stream of foam darts at over seven times the usual speed

The Nerf Vulcan Sentry Gun automatically locates targets and unleashes a stream of foam darts at over seven times the usual speed

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Anyone who plays video games will know that few things protect an area like a well-placed sentry gun. In the real world, though, even a person's bedroom or office could use a little protection sometimes, which is why one designer has built the Nerf Vulcan Sentry Gun. Using a custom program and some servos, the sentry can automatically locate targets and unleash a stream of foam darts at over seven times the usual speed, while keeping its owner out of the crosshairs.

Britt Liv Ulrike Michelsen, a chemical and biological engineering student from Germany, designed and constructed the sentry using mostly basic electronics and some plywood. This isn't the first time she's modified a Nerf gun, but building this robotic turret is arguably her most ambitious project to date.

Luckily, the Nerf Vulcan already operates using an electric motor, so controlling the actual firing mechanism through a computer was just a matter of connecting it directly to an Arduino Uno and a laptop. From there, Michelsen crafted a stand from plywood and mounted the gun onto a couple of servos, which also control its turning and tilting through the Arduino.

While she was at it, she swapped out the Vulcan's usual 2 kg (4.4 lb) firing spring for a 5 kg (11 lb) one, upping the dart's velocity from 12 m/s (39 ft/s) to 90 m/s (295 ft/s). Aside from giving the darts some extra punch, the increased speed also improved the gun's accuracy. She also added a higher-voltage battery pack to raise the firing rate.

Then it was just a matter of downloading and running an open-source program created by Bob Rudolph of Project Sentry Gun and affixing a webcam to the front of the stand. The webcam scans the area, while the program automatically locks onto movement, aims the gun, and begins firing.

As a added feature though, the gun can be programmed to cease fire when it registers a particular symbol. So if a person is wearing that symbol on their shirt, for example, then they can safely walk in front of the sentry, while everyone around them attempts to dodge a hail of darts.

As it stands, the gun can be loaded with a 100-round ammo belt, which runs out quickly but could likely be expanded with a little extra modification. According to the designer, the sentry is extremely accurate and will even anticipate where a target is moving to so as to catch up with them. If needed, the gun can also be controlled using a regular gamepad or joystick connected to the laptop.

It sounds like a lot of work to put this together, but it's probably all worth it to have an automated guard posted anywhere you want. If you'd like to take a crack at building your own Nerf Vulcan Sentry Gun, Michelsen has posted detailed step-by-step instructions on Instructables.

Check out the video below to see Michelsen demonstrate how the sentry locates and follows targets.

Source: Instructables

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

The end of the video she mentions Bob Rudolph for contrubing the code. His URL is http://projectsentrygun.rudolphlabs.com/ and he has a paintball sentry gun built that looks pretty cool.

It looks like he is a kid who got started on a high school robotics team and from his youtube channel they have a lot of other cool stuff. They built an autonomous radio controlled car, a knock activated deadbolt, an Arduino Rover that uses ultrasonic sounds to detect/avoid objects etc.

Considering how small their budget is some of their projects are pretty impressive. His paintball version and youtube channel are here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTs7VRFV36c


Something to do with those extra servos you got kickin around!

Bob Nalleweg

Time For An Upgrade! What this clever idea really needs is a jump up to a paint ball gun with custom made paintballs! Paintballs with a special mixture of orange fluorescent paint/dye, followed by a carefully balanced blend of ipecac, capsacin, and an appropriately tacky, flowery, cheap & durable perfume. Just the thing for neighborhood suppression free fire zones on all those special seasonal, holiday, & back-to-school events, etc.! Little Homies flooding the hood & fightin' after the hood highschool releases the general population fo' the day? No problem! Box ambush with units having supported crossing fire on critical intersections! A little rough on community relations but otherwise loads of fun.


What a woman!

I think I'm in love. :-)


This brings to mind the ManJack sentry unit's from John Ringo's Posleen Wars series.

If you can do it with Nerf, surely you can do it with a SAW or M60!


Set it to recognize coyotes and raccoons and use as a livestock sentry. Perhaps it could also attach RFID tags with a gluey projectile.

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