Three drones launched in North Korea, probe finds

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Three drones launched in North Korea, probe finds

North Korean troops located just 15 to 20 kilometers (nine to 12 miles) north of the military demarcation line (MDL) were responsible for sending a series of unmanned drones that were discovered in three different regions in South Korea, according to a joint investigation yesterday.

The report is based on a comprehensive analysis of the drones’ engines, fuel tanks and weight, a military official confirmed. The probe looking into the three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with digital cameras was a joint effort by the government and the military. The first UAV, or drone, was found on March 24 in the border town of Paju in Gyeonggi, and the second on March 31 on Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea.

The drone found in Paju had apparently taken photos of the Blue House. A third drone, discovered in Samcheok in Gangwon, crashed last October and was found by a nearby resident who didn’t report it until Thursday after reading about the two other UAVs. The official said the investigation team is nearly finished deciphering the coordinates entered in the GPS systems found in each of the three drones.

The coordinates would identify precisely where the aircraft departed, though it is already certain that they were sent by North Korea’s military, the source added. The official also said the drones found in South Korea were deemed to be part of the arms assigned to North Korea’s borderline troops for reconnaissance activities on the South - a statement that coincides with the Ministry of Defense’s announcement earlier that all three UAVs were developed and operated by the North Korean military for that purpose.

After President Park Geun-hye ordered the military on Monday to come up with countermeasures against North Korea’s aerial spying activities, both the military and related government organizations have scrambled to follow her command.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy yesterday unveiled a plan to commercialize a high-speed drone, or a tiltrotor, by 2020 by investing 248.2 billion won ($235.7 million) over the next eight years. The new aircraft will be five meters (16 feet) long and seven meters wide, and capable of flying up to five hours at a maximum speed of 500 kilometers per hour, five times the speed of the drones recently found.

The Defense Ministry said it is also considering advancing the date of adopting low-altitude radar systems that can detect objects with a smaller radar cross-section (how detectable an object is on radar) and thermal observation devices. However, the high cost is still a major hurdle.

Low-altitude radar costs nearly 1 billion won despite its short detection range.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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