As our country steps up efforts against Islamist militants believed to have regrouped just months after their defeat in the southern city of Marawi, the first six military-grade drones purchased from the United States have been received last March 13, 2018.
The six drones – costing US$13.6 million are Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are small, long-endurance and low-altitude UAVs built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.
These drones can stay in the air for more than 20 hours, and have a maximum flight height of 10,000 ft. Each drone is 1.2 m long with a wingspan of 3m, and is launched using an air-powered catapult. These are equipped with electro-optic, infrared and high-resolution video cameras that can track both stationary and moving targets.
According to Air Force spokesman Aristides Galang, these UAVs would be used to track terrorists in the insurgency-wracked southern island of Mindanao.
They will also be used for “limited maritime patrols” and to support government efforts against illegal logging and fishing. The Philippine military had earlier took delivery of three AeroVironment RQ-11B Raven hand-launched drones, and is in line to aquire two General Atomics RQ-1 Predator UAVs.
To keep track of about 1,000 Islamist militants who stormed and seized large parts of Marawi city in Mindanao in May last year, the military had to rely on drones operated by US Special Forces and AP-3C Orion surveillance planes flown by the Royal Australian Air Force.
“ISIS Philippines is discreetly recruiting members like wildfire, and it has established strong sleeper cells in key vulnerable cities in Mindanao,” said security analyst Rommel Banlaoi, chair of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.
According to intelligence reports, they have indicated that militants are plotting to storm or set off bombs in the densely populated and much larger cities of Iligan and Cotabato.