January 3, 2014:
In the Philippines the military has long been used to getting by on very tight budgets. That means developing tactics, techniques and improvised weapons and equipment to get the job done. The latest example is two micro-UAVs called Raptor (costing $3,400 each) and Knight Falcon (goes for about $6,700 each). Both of these are similar to the American Raven, which has been used in the Philippines in small quantities.
The Raven B (RQ-11A), costs ten times as much as the Filipino Raptor and does pretty much the same job. Raven B was introduced in 2007, a year after the original Raven entered service in large numbers. This UAV can stay in the air for 80 minutes at a time and is battery powered (and largely silent unless flown close to the ground). It carries a color day vidcam, or a two color infrared night camera. It can also carry a laser designator. Both cameras broadcast real time video back to the operator, who controls the Raven via a handheld controller, which uses a hood to shield the display from direct sunlight (thus allowing the operator to clearly see what is down there). The Raven can go as fast as 90 kilometers an hour, but usually cruises at between 40 and 50. It can go as far as 15 kilometers from its controller, and usually flies a preprogrammed route, using GPS for navigation. The Raven is made of Kevlar, the same material used in helmets and protective vests. On average, Raven can survive about 200 landings before it breaks something. While some Ravens have been shot down, the most common cause of loss is losing the communications link (as the aircraft flies out of range) or a software/hardware failure on the aircraft.
Not many details on Raptor or Knight Falcon have been released but photos show both being about the same size as Raven and with similar capabilities. The slightly larger Knight Falcon is described as having an endurance of three hours, indicating it probably uses a small gasoline engine. The cameras and electronic in the Filipino UAVs are not as powerful or reliable as those in the Raven and the Filipino UAVs probably cannot survive as many landings as the Raven. But Filipino troops were very pleased with Raptor and Knight Falcon after both were used during several 2013 operations against MILF and Abu Sayyaf rebels. Small UAVs like this change the way troops fight. With the bird's eye view of the battlefield, commanders can move their troops more quickly, confident that they won't be ambushed, and often with certain knowledge of where the unseen enemy is. It makes a big difference and the Filipino troops now know it from personal experience.