Various consumer DJI drones are being used in a war right now by both the Philippine Army and the radical Islamic terrorist group called the Maute. The Battle of Marawi is an ongoing war which started last May 23 when President Duterte of the Philippines declared martial law on the island of Mindanao due to a rise in terrorist activities. Consumer drones are easy to buy, and they can give an advantageous aerial perspective, so it wasn’t long before both the Maute and the Philippine Army starting utilizing them. While the government used DJI drones to track terrorist hideouts, the Maute were also spotted using unauthorized DJI drones to escape and monitor the Philippine Army. We Talk Uav got an exclusive interview with an authorized DJI retail store in the Philippines, and they shared insights into the drone surveillance war in Marawi.
DJI Drones in Marawi
According to the interview with the shop staff, the Philippine Army often purchased drones directly from their DJI store. They said that the neighboring DJI repair shop restored numerous drones that were shot by the Maute group. The Phantom 4 seems to be the army’s drone of choice, but the picture above is a Phantom 3 Professional that was taken in for repair. A bullet hole pierced through the camera, and the staff explained that the Maute shot the DJI Phantom 3 Professional at a short range with a .22 caliber bullet, hence the small hole. After the drone lost its live view function, the auto return to home brought back the damaged DJI drone to safety. The Philippine Army was reported to have 2 drones per battalion, but many of those DJI drones came back for repairs.
Confiscated Maute Drones from Marawi
The DJI shop staff also shared that the Philippine Army brought in confiscated drones. Once the Maute drones were shot down and taken in to be examined by the shop, the DJI staff found out that the serial numbers linked to the drones were sold from unauthorized DJI dealers. The confiscated drones were most likely purchased second hand in Hong Kong.
Why DJI Drones?
DJI drones like the Mavic and the Phantom series are easy to use, they are low priced, and they can most likely be easily repaired due to the availability of parts.
U.S. Army Drones Have Been Spotted in Marawi
Using drones to spot enemies is not something new. The U.S. Army is currently developing a unique compact drone which can be used by soldiers to scout surrounding areas. Though that technology is still in the research stage, the U.S. Army in the Philippines have also been seen aiding the government by using customized drones to spot Maute terrorist in Marawi.
DJI has gained the reputation as the consumer UAV leader. Since their products are inadvertently being used in wars all over the world, DJI started limiting drone functionality via forced updates to combat these types of situations. Even though their products are being misused, DJI has taken the initiative by fighting back against terrorism.