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Sleuths find nosy NORKS drones on the Chinternet

UAVs likely to have been made in the Middle Kingdom

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At least one of the suspected North Korean drones found after crashing south of the 38th parallel appears to have been made by a Chinese aviation company.

Taiyuan Navigation Friend Aviation Technology is a small UAV-maker based in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province – a little over 1,000 kilometres from Pyongyang as the crow flies.

It appears to produce two drone models, with pictures of the SKY-09P pretty much matching perfectly the craft recovered by South Korea a few weeks ago.

As pointed out by the North Korea Tech blog, the wing and chassis shape, propeller and tail-fin all look virtually identical to those of the drone pictured in a South Korean Ministry of Defence image.

If it is the same, the petrol-powered craft has a wingspan of 1.92 meters, can travel at 80-100km/h and flies at a height of up to 4,000m, according to the spec sheet.

It can apparently carry a 3kg payload and takes off via a catapult mechanism before landing with a parachute – or presumably falling out of the sky in the case of the recovered drone.

Additional pictures found on the interwebs lend further credence to the theory the NORKS drone hails from China.

Beijing-based aviation and comms biz TranComm lists a range of UAVs for sale on its site including the SKY-09P.

A shot of the undercarriage of the SKY-09P indicates various bolts and pads which seem to be in the exact same configuration as those on the crashed drone.

It’s also built to carry digital cameras or camcorders, according to the product info, which tallies with the digital snapper recovered from one of the crashed drones a few weeks back.

TranComm also sells sister models the SKY-09 and SKY-09H which can fly higher than the SKY-09P, reaching 5,000m and 6,000m respectively.

The recovery of the crashed UAVs put Seoul on alert after it was deduced from the on-board images that one of the aerial vehicles had been flying over the South Korean capital, snapping various landmarks including the presidential residence.

For the record, North Korea has neither confirmed nor denied that the drones were catapulted into the heavens from its side of the border.

If it turns out to be true, this won't be the first time the hermit state has co-opted technology from its communist neighbour.

Earlier this month it emerged that its first 'home-grown' smartphone, the Arirang AS1201, is likely to be little more than a rebadged version of the Chinese-made Uniscope U1201. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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