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Fear of Drone-based Terrorist Attacks Spreading in South Korea
Nuclear Plants Not Protected from Potential Drone Attacks
Fear of Drone-based Terrorist Attacks Spreading in South Korea
  • By Jung Suk-yee
  • September 18, 2019, 12:11
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Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq complex attacked by drones (Image source: BBC.com)

Concerns over drone-based terrorist attacks are rising in South Korea with Saudi Arabian oil facilities compromised by unidentified drones. Experts point out that the government would be well advised to take measures to better protect nuclear power plants, semiconductor manufacturing plants, and other key industrial facilities.

According to news outlets such as Bloomberg, the attack in Saudi Arabia was carried out by multiple drones that flew a distance of at least 1,000 kilometers and neutralized the air defense network of Saudi Arabia.

In the meantime, Minjung Party lawmaker Kim Jong-hoon recently pointed out based on data from the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission that drones have flown around nuclear power plants in South Korea on 13 different occasions since December 2015 and the number is 10 this year alone. At present, it is prohibited by law to fly a drone around a nuclear power plant without an approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff or a regional aviation administration. “The data shows that the nuclear power plants are not being protected from potential drone attacks,” the lawmaker said.

The 10 incidents that occurred this year are divided into seven around the Kori Nuclear Power Plant, which is close to large cities such as Busan and Ulsan, two around the Hanbit Nuclear Power Plant, and one around the Hanul Nuclear Power Plant. The incidents include drone flights detected within one kilometer from the facilities and seven by means of unidentified drones. “Not to mention the atomic power stations, the Ulsan and Onsan Petrochemical Complexes, which are the largest of their kind in South Korea, are less than 10 kilometers away from the power stations with some facilities of the complexes located outside no-fly zones,” the lawmaker went on to say.

According to experts, it is currently impossible to prevent sudden and simultaneous drone-based terrorist attacks in South Korea. A drone flying at 360 km per hour covers a distance of 100 meters a second and the country’s radar detectors capable of detecting small drones have a detection range of approximately five kilometers. “It is required to hit a target drone within 50 seconds after it is detected and the time is too short,” said Kang Wang-koo at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, adding, “A simultaneous attack by 10 or more drones is even less preventable.”

Many governments are striving to cope with such possibilities, but solutions are still distant. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States is aiming to track drones by embedding wireless identification devices in the drones, but legislation to that end is likely to take years.