In May 2010, the Pentagon alerted federal investigators that one of its birds — an RQ-11A/B “Raven” — had popped up on eBay for the relatively affordable sum of $13,000. Nine photos of the craft were posted, and they included markings that allowed the Defense Department to identify the Raven as the property of U.S. Southern Command.
The seller of the one on e-Bay, a native of the Philippines, sold the small craft to an undercover officer with the Department of Homeland Security who was pretending to be a American middleman for a Russian buyer. The drone — which is commonly used by U.S. forces in Afghanistan for over-the-hill surveillance — was then disassembled, and shipped to the United States in three different packages.
As part of a plea agreement, Henson Chua was to plead guilty Wednesday in Florida to the illegal import of defense material for selling the Raven. He faces up to 20 years in prison but will likely get less under federal guidelines.
No word in the court papers on how Chua got the drone in the first place.