Prepare the dissection table. Iran says it’s planning to disassemble its prized acquisition: a CIA-operated drone that apparently crashed on its territory. Its goal: to learn how the drone, apparently a stealth RQ-170 Sentinel, evades radar and how its top-secret sensors work. Which has the U.S. worried about Iran copying its advanced flying robot. ”There is the potential for reverse engineering, clearly,” U.S. Air Force Chief Gen. Norton Schwartz conceded.
But Iran will probably need help from arms exporters Russia and China in breaking down the flying-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — meaning the RQ-170′s secrets could ultimately fall into the hands of, well, pretty much every country with an interest in sticking it to Uncle Sam. Luckily for Washington, however, reverse-engineering a high-tech drone is easier said than done, according to two UAV designers who spoke to Danger Room on the condition we not print their names.
Late last week Iran released videos and photos (like the one above) purporting to show the captured Sentinel mostly intact. There are questions about the images’ authenticity. It’s possible Iran possesses a more-or-less undamaged RQ-170. But it’ also possible that they’ve got mostly debris on their hands. Obviously, the better the drone’s condition, the easier it will be to examine.