North Korea Made a Drone from Parts from 7 Countries

Nana Kim, June 22, 2017, 9:15 a.m.


A drone North Korea sent to spy on the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery being stationed here was put together from components from at least seven different countries. The drone crashed on a mountain in Inje, Gangwon Province on June 8.

The Defense Ministry told reporters Wednesday that a team of investigators were able to trace the drone's flight path and found it embarked in North Korea and intended to return there.

The drone could have flown some 600 km if it had not crashed, which significantly improves on the 200-300 km range of a North Korean drone found here in 2014. It was fitted with a high-powered 50 cc engine from the Czech Republic and a fuel tank with a capacity of 7.47 liters.

The camera, a Sony Alpha 7R, weighed just about 400 g, while the battery capacity doubled from 2600 mAh in the 2014 drone to 5300 mAh.

Besides the Czech engine, the operating computer was made by MicroPilot of Canada; the GPS receiver by U-Blox from Switzerland; the GPS antenna made by Trimble of the U.S., the RC receiver and camera in Japan; and the battery in China. The servomotor that moves the wings was made by HITEC RCD in South Korea.

Analysis of flight records in the computer and the pre-programmed flight schedule shows that the drone took off from Kumgang, Kangwon Province at 10 a.m. on May 2, crossed the military demarcation line, circled over the THAAD battery, and crashed on the mountain in Inje at 3:33 p.m. on its way back to its home base.

It crashed five hours and 33 minutes after it took off and took 555 photos stored on the camera memory stick.

It flew at a speed of 90 km/h and at an altitude of 2.4 km over a total distance of about 490 km.

"The drone's speed dropped and it consumed too much fuel, probably due to an engine malfunction," an investigator the Agency for Defense Development said. It probably crashed because it ran out of fuel.

The drone took off on May 2, six days after the U.S. Forces Korea set up the radar system and two of the THAAD launchers. "It's highly likely that this was a meticulously planned operation by the North's General Bureau of Reconnaissance rather than routine reconnaissance activity by the Army," military official said.

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