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Dissecting Drones a Lot Harder Than Iran Claims

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It’s been a bad couple of weeks for US military drones. First, one crashes in Iran and the country refuses to return it. Then, today a second goes down on the tiny island nation of Seychelles -- although it looks like we’ll be getting that one back. Meanwhile, the head of the drones program is under an ethics investigation.

However, there might be one small bright spot. In a recent article, Wired claims that Iranian scientists may not be able to successfully dissect the predator drone, even with help from the Russians or Chinese.

In the wake of the predator crash, Iranian officials have mounted a massive PR campaign intent on convincing the world that they will crack the top-secret technology. The drone has appeared on Iranian and Venezuelan TV, along with very loud claims that the US will “learn more about the abilities and possibilities of our country,” according to the Washington Post.

Yet, according to Wired, it’s difficult to be sure that they even have an intact drone. There are questions about the authenticity of Iran’s photos, and the possibility remains that all they have is debris.   

Even if the drone is intact, Iran probably doesn’t have the technical knowledge to figure out how it works. Many observers assume that the Iranians will go to the Chinese or Russians for help.

From there, the team will first have to imitate the shape and design of the drone. Then, they’ll examine the materials and try to figure out the exact composite used in its construction.

After that, there’s the engine, sensors and radar systems. The exact equipment carried by predators is a secret between Lockheed Martin (LMT) and the US government, but Wired is fairly clear that it’s going to be tough to figure everything out.

Finally, there’s the issue of the radar system, which, assuming it hasn’t broken, should have security measures. A Boeing (BA) engineer quoted in the article says that leaving these measures out would be the “dumbest thing in the world.”

At the very least, Iran has a very tough road ahead of them before they’re ready to start building their own army of drones. Of course, American military technology has been duplicated in the past, with Russia being the most notable copycat.

Meanwhile, different groups in the US are finding every day uses for drones. In North Dakota, predators assisted in the arrest of a fringe group accused of stealing cows, among other things. On the civilian front, the Washington Post ran a story suggesting that drones may soon become a mainstay at many news outlets.
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