The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the CIA’s RQ-170 Sentinel drone was apparently hijacked by using software that “spoofed” GPS coordinates, leading it to land intact in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home base in Afghanistan. This is according to an Iranian engineer now working on the captured drone’s systems inside Iran.
“The GPS navigation is the weakest point,” he told the newspaper. “By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain.” The Iranians developed these techniques from reverse-engineering several less sophisticated American drones captured or shot down in recent years, the engineer says, and by taking advantage of weak, easily manipulated GPS signals, which calculate location and speed from multiple satellites.Using knowledge gleaned from these previous downed American drones, the Iranian specialists then reconfigured the drone’s GPS coordinates to make it land safely in Iran.
The information provided by the Iranian engineer came as Iran announced it plans to put several foreign unmanned spy planes it has in its possession on display in the near future, including four Israeli drones.
The United States originally denied losing the drone over Iran before changing the story and insisting that the drone malfunctioned and lost contact with the base during a surveillance mission over neighboring Afghanistan.