South Korea discovered a suspected North Korean drone on a mountain near its shared border Friday, according to the military, that believes the device was conducting reconnaissance.
North Korea has been regularly conducting missile tests, firing off everything from ballistic missiles to surface-to-air missiles to coastal defense cruise missiles. The North also has other weapons systems in the works, including a number of unmanned aerial systems for spying and combat operations.
The recovered device resembles a North Korean drone discovered in 2014 on an island near the demilitarized zone (DMZ), according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The drone found this time looks sloppy but slightly more slender than previous ones,” a military official told Reuters.
The United Nations reported last year that the North has around 300 drones, although other reports suggest that North Korea could have as many as 1,000 drones in its arsenal. Limited air force and satellite capabilities impair North Korean reconnaissance efforts, so North Korea relies on unmanned aerial systems.
Over the years, the North has repeatedly sent drones into South Korea, with the latter failing in some instances to bring them down. In 2014, three unmanned drones were found in border areas. The South opened fire on a North Korean drone last year, forcing it to return to the Northern side of the border.
While most North Korean drones are unsophisticated and can be eliminated with surface-to-air missiles, the South is also believed to be developing directed energy (laser) weapons to destroy unmanned systems, as drones have the potential to be used for far more nefarious purposes than spying.
Research from the Korea Institute for National Unification notes that North Korean drones could be used for biological and chemical weapons strikes. There are even suspicions that North Korea may be developing a dirty bomb drone that could render an area uninhabitable for years.
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