Meet the drones that helped in the Zambo siege

MANILA, Philippines – Meet Raptor and Knight Falcon. They're the military's eyes in the sky and they helped government forces in their bloody standoff with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in September.

The Philippine Army displayed last week in Camp Aguinaldo the 2 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), a public admission that it has been using drones in its operations.

Army spokesperson Captain Anthony Bacus said they started developing the drones in 2012 thanks to a funding of P2.5 million. It's part of the Army's capability upgrade under the Army Transformation Roadmap, according to Army spokesperson Captain Anthony Bacus.

"The UAS had been instrumental in the successful conduct of operations against the rogue MNLF rebels in Zamboanga City last September that led to the surrender and arrest of several MNLF fighters under Nur Misuari," said Bacus.

They will be also be useful in humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

"The Army came up with this UAS to boost our capability, especially in this aspect. We are able to get video footage without risking the life of an individual," said Bacus.

The Army's first drone, called Raptor, costs P150,000. The second drone, called Knight Falcon, costs P300,000. 

Drones provide real-time imagery intelligence and video feed from a particular area with a range of 3 km to 7 km and can extend up to 50 km, said Bacus.

Bacus said the drones can last one to 3 hours. "We are able to get necessary information from enemy camps," he said.

Bacus said they are now developing a 3rd drone, an enhanced version of the Raptor and Knight Falcon. 

Not for attacks?

The Department of National Defense also recently invited bidders who can supply the miiltary with 6 sets of drones. (READ: PH military to acquire drones)

It is among 4 items in the P684-million contract for the Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System (MITSS) Acquisition Project for the Philippines Marine Corps. 

Drones have become controversial largely because of allegations the US has deployed its own in Philippine territory and used them to attack terrorists. A New York Times story last year said the US drones dropped bombs in Mindanao in 2006.

But Philippine officials have emphasized that US drones have been used in the past for intelligence and surveillance purposes in joint operations. (READ: What drones? PH not Afghanistan - US officer)

President Benigno Aquino III himself has said a drone strike may violate the Constitution. –