In the old days, movie ads in theaters and newspapers had the headline: “coming soon to a theater near you.” The sub-headline of this post should be: “coming soon to a sky over Natanz.”
Haaretz published a story (Hebrew) based on an Israeli scientific paper which described a newly developed micro-copter (the size of a human hand) which can carry 300 grams worth of radioactivity monitoring-equipment and fly up to 30 knots. The vehicle can fly over difficult terrain and even enter indoor facilities to detect radioactivity. Unlike a human, the device can fly over a contaminated site without endangering itself. It can also fly undetected given its exceedingly small size. The copter currently is being used to detect radioactive leaks (it was developed by scientists at the Israeli Nuclear Research Center based at the Dimona nuclear reactor). The irony is that Israel has shown a marked disregard for radioactive contamination and scores of Dimona’s plant workers have died of cancers related to such exposure.
Though the reporter only alludes to this (perhaps an indication of the censor’s hand?), clearly the micro-copter, developed with the cooperation of the U.S. government’s Department of Energy, could surveil Iranian nuclear sites if it develops a longer operational capability (currently it can fly for only 20 minutes).
In such circumstances, one naturally wonders why a particular story is published at a particular time. Did the reporter happen across the scientific paper by chance? Did a source direct it to him? If so, why?
U.S. government sources have trumpeted their sophisticated capabilities to monitor Iranian nuclear facilities, which would enable us to detect violations of the nuclear accords if they occur. In news accounts, these technologies aren’t generally spelled out. It’s certainly in the interest of the Obama administration to make such technical advances known to the Israeli media. There are also Israeli intelligence and scientific officials who support the Iran nuclear deal. It would be in their interest to make stories like this better known to the public.
The paper is available on an IAEA website, which would be one of the international bodies which might use the micro-copters in its monitoring of Iranian sites.