Two drones that crashed in South Korea recently are probably North Korean surveillance aircraft, the military here believes.
One drone crashed on Baeknyeong Island around 4 p.m. Monday, just as North Korea was lobbing artillery shells into waters near the de facto maritime border. The other crashed in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on March 24.
The crashes raised the alarm about loopholes in South Korea's air defenses.
The Baeknyeong drone had a wingspan of 2.45 m and a fuselage length of 1.83 m, while the Paju drone measured 1.92 m by 1.43 m. But they were painted identical sky blue with a pattern of white clouds.
They looked similar to an unmanned "suicide" attack aircraft unveiled in a parade during celebrations marking North Korean regime founder Kim Il-sung's 100th birthday in April 2012.
Both drones carried near-identical propeller engines, cameras and parachutes.
The Baeknyeong drone had taken photographs of military installations on the five northwesternmost islands including the Sixth Marine Brigade. In all probability, the drone was used to monitor the movements of South Korean troops in real time while the North lobbed artillery shells at the Northern Limit Line, military authorities suspect.
The Paju drone contained long shots of Cheong Wa Dae, giving rise to fears that Seoul’s airspace is insufficiently protected.
When the Paju drone was found, South Korean military and intelligence authorities speculated that it could have been launched privately given the poor camera quality.
Back in August 2010 when it fired about 110 coastal artillery shells toward the NLL, the North reconnoitered areas near Baeknyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands with a drone that flew undetected by radar and mostly invisible to the naked eye.
Experts warn that there may be more drones buzzing around South Korean skies undetected.