3D Robotics


[I'm applying the sysadmin privilage of making an exception to our usual no-military rule here, because the technical issues are sufficiently interesting].

Apply the usual skepticism about the claims, but there's something plausible in the following. As I understand it, the assertion is that Iran basically used radio jamming techniques to force the RQ-170 into RTL mode, then overrode the GPS signal with a fake one that made it think that "home" was an Iranian field. 

An excerpt from the Christian Science Monitor, a good article that discusses what may have caused the capture:

Iran guided the CIA's "lost" stealth drone to an intact landing inside hostile territory by exploiting a navigational weakness long-known to the US military, according to an Iranian engineer now working on the captured drone's systems inside Iran.

Iranian electronic warfare specialists were able to cut off communications links of the American bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel, says the engineer, who works for one of many Iranian miltiary and civilian teams currently trying to unravel the drone’s stealth and intelligence secrets, and who could not be named for his safety.

Using knowledge gleaned from previous downed American drones and a technique proudly claimed by Iranian commanders in September, the Iranian specialists then reconfigured the drone's GPS coordinates to make it land in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home base in Afghanistan.


"GPS signals are weak and can be easily outpunched [overridden] by poorly controlled signals from television towers, devices such as laptops and MP3 players, or even mobile satellite services," Andrew Dempster, a professor from the University of New South Wales School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems, told a March conference on GPS vulnerability in Australia.

"This is not only a significant hazard for military, industrial, and civilian transport and communication systems, but criminals have worked out how they can jam GPS," he says.

The US military has sought for years to fortify or find alternatives to the GPS system of satellites, which are used for both military and civilian purposes. In 2003, a “Vulnerability Assessment Team” at Los Alamos National Laboratory published research explaining how weak GPS signals were easily overwhelmed with a stronger local signal.

“A more pernicious attack involves feeding the GPS receiver fake GPS signals so that it believes it is located somewhere in space and time that it is not,” reads the Los Alamos report. “In a sophisticated spoofing attack, the adversary would send a false signal reporting the moving target’s true position and then gradually walk the target to a false position.”

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  • Moderator

    Regarding the symetrical damage to the wings... did the drone have a ballistic parachute recovery system?

    This could explain some of the damage and also point to a failsafe condition rather than the Iranian claim of controlled, hijacked landing.

  • Interesting article Kevin.  It kind of makes sense that they would display a mock up, rather than the real thing.  That explains why this one looks so crude.  Of course, it also helps to confuse the CIA, as to whether they actually have the drone or not, thus delaying or preventing any counterstrike.

    They've probably moved the real drone to a secured, radio shielded bunker by now.  

  • A simple solution as to how the "Beast of Kandahar" fell into Iranian hands:



  • @jack i am waiting for the chinese minutarised version to appearat the local shops ;)

  • I am sure that the drone had some dead reckoning backup system as well to verify its location.

  • @ellison

    i love airshow and exhibitions (see my avatar) if they want to show it in a exhibition make sure that i will be there  :) 

  • both wings are cut symetrically!! what symetrical hard landing!

    this is one of lost peice of puzzle.

    iranian people making so funny joks,sms,email,ets  about it. this is only good part of this matter.

  • ha taped together.Reminds me of a few of mine

  • @ellison rest assured anything learned by Hisbullah from Israel would surely be learned by Iran :)

  • If the CIA get lucky, the Iranians will bring it into their super secret hitech underground bunkers for further investigation.

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