When Philippine Armed Forces recaptured the city of Marawi from Islamic State-backed terrorists in 2017, the need for situational awareness in this urban battlefield was paramount. Marawi is made up of densely packed, multi-story buildings with extensive tunnels and bunkers designed as defensive positions to protect families from the region’s endemic clan feuds. In addition, the terrorists had made extensive preparations to turn this overcrowded urban landscape into a deadly operating environment. Tactical situational awareness was crucial for the security forces as there seemed to be a sniper or booby trap on every corner.

However, through the purchase of commercial drones, the Islamic state fighters at times had better reconnaissance skills than the armed forces of the Philippines, an important ally of the USA. In the words of a Filipino ranger: “The Islamic State militants are better armed, with powerful weapons, night vision goggles, the latest sniper …

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