The quite strange unarmed bird-like drone which was recovered by Pakistani forces in August of 2011 apparently did not just fly over Pakistan, but was also apparently spotted by Iraqi insurgents at least two years before making its way to Pakistan.
One might jump to the conclusion that the drone belongs to the United States since the U.S. is involved a great deal of drone operations in Pakistan – which the Pakistani parliament has unanimously declared must end. It also appears to be similar to some of the drone projects which are leaning towards designs influenced by birds and insects.
A reader of The Aviationist tipped them off to a video posted on May 28, 2009 showing the drone captured by the Iraqi Hezbollah in Iraq which is eerily similar to the drone which was captured in Pakistan.
The providence of the drone is shrouded in a thick veil of mystery since no nation would take responsibility for the device which has, according to Danger Room, “silver wings and a span about the size of a grown man’s outstretched arms, the drone was clearly more than a hobbyist’s toy: the remains of a camera were near the crash site, a camera that fit into the robotic bird’s belly, ostensibly for spying on insurgents.”
Danger Room points out that the drone is quite similar to, but definitely not exactly the same as, Festo’s “SmartBird” drone.
The dimensions of the two drones are similar and the designs obviously look alike as well although, “It’s clearly not the same drone, as the wings are obviously different: the mystery drone’s wings are straighter and more sharply angled than the SmartBird’s sleeker, more rounded wings, which mimic those of the gull,” according to Danger Room.
The nation or entity behind the drone is difficult to determine outside from speculation based on the nations currently involved in operations in Pakistan.
However, Danger Room seems to think it belong so the U.S. in writing, “Iraqi Hezbollah date its photos of the mystery drone to May 2009 in Basra, a major city in southern Iraq. Back then, U.S. troops were training their Iraqi counterparts on new-line intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. Hmm.”
While the video and screenshots don’t reveal any technical information on the drone which is all that new, it does show that the drone in Iraq and that in Pakistan are closely related.
Both have a design which relies on flapping wings, a trapezoidal tail feather and a spherical camera placed in the belly of the bird.
However, the drone recovered in Pakistan has a tailfin on the underside of the rear feather which the drone in Iraq is missing and the version found in Iraq is a duller color than the reflective silver drone in Pakistan.
“The fact that it was probably already flying in Iraq two years before crashing in Pakistan, proves that the bird-like UAV is not a toy but a small combat proven spy drone,” writes The Aviationist’s David Cenciotti.
This deals a significant blow to those who have repeatedly claimed that it was actually just a DIY drone, evidenced by Danger Room tagging the latest post with “DIY Drones.”
However, since we really have no idea who made the drone or who was operating it, one cannot say with certainty that it is not a DIY creation of some group somewhere although I find this quite unlikely.
That being said, it wouldn’t be all that damaging for the United States to confirm that it is our drone given that we are already running deadly drone operations around the globe.
Ultimately, it’s impossible to speculate on the issue with any degree of certainty since we know very little about the drone and its origin but it will be fascinating to see if more information comes out or if more appearances of the strange device begin to surface.
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