Drone deployment has become associated with rice growth research in the Philippines, as well as spotting illegal fishponds, and the early detection of approaching typhoons. Having seen neighboring countries invest millions of dollars on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for combat and non-combat applications, Filipinos have acquired similar devices for their own operational needs.
Because the Philippine constitution refutes war as an instrument of national policy, the non-combat nature of local drone deployment comes into play. According to Inquirer, Philippine Rice Research Institute spokesman Roger Barroga emphasized the importance of the UAV in accurate data gathering and efficient program implementation. His explanation of drone deployment in a non-combat role included a joking reference to Vice President Jejomar Binay still grappling with the scandal of a shady 2014 land deal in the province of Batangas.
“This is a low-cost alternative to using helicopters and light airplanes as well as satellite imaging which requires expensive equipment and experts to interpret the data. They need not have spent so much in the surveillance of the so-called Binay Hacienda when they used a helicopter.”
Advances in drone technology now allow hobbyists to operate fairly inexpensive UAVs at remarkable distances, with consistent precision. The deployment of different commercial grades give operators the leeway to automate landing, hovering, and even advanced maneuvers like barrel rolls. Higher-end recreational UAVs can have pre-determined flight paths without user input.
While Philippine drone acquisition has relied on the United States as a primary source, Japan offers a viable option. According to TC News, Japan’s Rakuten has thrown its hat in the ring as a serious contender against e-commerce giants Amazon and Alibaba aiming for the UAV market. Tokyo-based Rakuten, which happens to be Japan’s largest online commerce firm, has put up the money for the deployment of field trials in a golf course.
Rakuten is helping to finance Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory (ACSL), a Japan-based robotics and drone developer. A child of Chiba University in 2013, ACSL offers its “Mini Surveyor” drones for deployment with automated tasks like surveying, inspections, and monitoring.
Though a prolific drone-maker, China has removed itself from the Philippines’ list of U.A.V. suppliers because of the volatile South China Sea situation. China’s creation of artificial islands that provide docking facilities for the deployment of its warships in the contested area, has triggered off diplomatic protests from the Philippines over its violated exclusive economic zone.
South Korea, on the other hand, already a major source of cars for Filipino drivers, can be counted on as a secondary supplier for the expansion of the Philippines’ drone fleet. According to Dronelife, South Korean President Park Geun-hye had this to say about her country’s deployment of resources to augment its manufacturing capabilities.
″Korea is the world′s fifth-largest auto producer; and seventh in terms of drone technology. If we come up with a strategy and focus on increasing our capabilities, we will be able to catch up to the leading nations.″
During Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, a Philippine drone deployment helped in disaster relief operations, paving the way for Canadian-born pop star Justin Bieber to arrive with his entourage bearing material assistance for the survivors. When Typhoon Hagupit hit in 2014, another Canadian entity, Aeryon Labs, lent UAVs to Global Medic for search and rescue operations.
The Filipino government’s drone deployment now extends to stamping out illegal logging of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley rainforests — a clear signal that the UAV is here to stay.
[Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images]