Crashed North Korean Spy Drone Took Photos of THAAD Site in South Korea
An aerial spy drone from North Korea equipped with a Japanese-made Sony digital camera crashed in South Korea near the Demilitarized Zone after taking photos of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system in Seongju to the south of Seoul.
South Korea's Ministry of Defense said the drone was discovered last week. The Sony camera aboard the drone was discovered to have taken hundreds of photos, according to sources at the Republic of Korea Armed Forces (ROKAF).
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A small number of the images recovered (estimated at from 10 to 30) were of the THAAD missile launchers and their radar system installed in Seongju earlier this year. The rest were mostly photos of residential areas, agricultural fields and other areas in South Korea.
The drone, which was painted in light blue camouflage similar to three other North Korean drones that crashed in 2014, was believed to have crashed because it ran short of fuel while returning to North Korea. Defense ministry official said they were trying to determine if the drone transmitted its photos of the THAAD site back to North Korea.
ROKAF sources believe the Korean People's Army (KPA) has some 300 aerial drones. In 2014, several North Korean drones were recovered after crashing in South Korea.
Defense ministry officials described the camera-equipped, single-engine drones as low-tech, almost toy-like, but should be considered a potential security threat.
The drone found last week had two gasoline-driven engines and flew farther than those discovered in 2014, which had single engines, said the defense ministry. This suggests the north is upgrading its inventory of aerial spy drones.
The three drones recovered in 2014 also were also equipped with Sony cameras and photographed South Korea's presidential Blue House and other areas. Those drones were unable to transmit photos in real time, said the defense ministry.
None of these drones were capable of carrying weapons. The drone recovered last week, while powered by two engines, is also not capable of being weaponized.