Ukrainian authorities captured a Russian spy drone in eastern Ukraine, security officials said on Friday.
The clunky aircraft has the look of a high-school science project gone bad. But Ukraine's SBU security service claims it is a modification of Russia's Orlan-10 drone that has 3D mapping and real-time battle monitoring capabilities.
It can carry a thermal camera for night vision, a stills camera, and a geo-stabilized video camera, depending on the specific build, the SBU said.
The capture of the drone would appear to point to direct involvement of the Russian government in fighting in eastern Ukraine. So far Moscow has denied it is behind the pro-Russia uprising in the east but the appearance of Kremlin-loyal Chechen militants in the city of Donetsk, as well as Cossacks with Russian passports makes those denials seem increasingly untenable.
Vladislav Seleznyov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, told VICE News that "drones are flown over Ukrainian camps in the area of the anti-terrorist operation regularly to spy on our personnel. We are doing what we can to influence the situation."
Seleznyov said the captured drone was shot down with a "high-precision technological weapon," but would not elaborate further. The craft was also carrying a capsule containing an unknown chemical which SBU experts are currently trying to identify, the agency said on its website.
The Orlan-10 is produced by Russia's Spetsialniy Tekhnologicheskiy Tsentr, a defense contractor without a website, which planned to build 100 of the drones in 2013 for sale to the Russian military, according to Russian news agencies.
Ukraine has for weeks been carrying out what it is calling an anti-terrorism operation against Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Casualties have mounted on both sides as fighting has intensified in and around the cities of Sloviansk, Donetsk, and Luhansk.