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20 illegal drone intrusions into Changi Airport airspace in past 3 months, alleged culprits arrested: SM Teo

SINGAPORE — Over the last three months, the authorities have arrested the culprits involved in 20 instances of illegal drone intrusions into the restricted airspace around Changi Airport, but none resulted in flight disruptions, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Monday (Nov 23).

20 illegal drone intrusions into Changi Airport airspace in past 3 months, alleged culprits arrested: SM Teo

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said that the authorities have the capability to detect and deal with drone intrusions in the Changi Airport vicinity and they have seen reasonable success.

  • The authorities have detected 20 illegal drone intrusions into Changi Airport airspace in the past three months, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said
  • The alleged culprits have been caught, he added 
  • The authorities brought forward plans to deal with errant drones after illegal drone flying caused major flight disruptions last year
  • It is illegal to fly drones within 5km of airports or military air bases without a permit
     

SINGAPORE — Over the last three months, the authorities have caught the culprits involved in 20 instances of illegal drone intrusions into the restricted airspace around Changi Airport, but none resulted in flight disruptions, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Monday (Nov 23).

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, made the comments during a visit to the airport where he observed the measures the authorities have put in place to detect drone activity near the airport.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of flights operating at Changi Airport is far lower than during normal times.

In June last year, drone activity at Changi Airport resulted in major disruptions to flights. Responding to TODAY's queries, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said investigations are still going on. 

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had said last year that the incursions were receiving “top-level” attention because of the potential disruption to passengers and the threat of safety.

On June 18 and 19 last year, unauthorised drone activity over Changi Airport held up 37 departing and arriving flights. Another arriving flight was diverted to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Less than a week later, on June 24, 18 or so departing and arriving flights were delayed and seven others diverted because of unauthorised drone activity and bad weather.

Dr Ng also said then that the Ministry of Transport and CAAS, the primary government agencies dealing with the issue, had sought professional advice from the Singapore Armed Forces, the Defence Science and Technology Agency, and DSO National Laboratories, Singapore’s largest defence research-and-development organisation.

Since then, the authorities have brought forward their plans for dealing with errant drone activity near the airport and there have been no further instances of flight disruptions due to drone intrusions, Mr Teo said on Monday.

“Now we have the capability to detect and deal with drone intrusions in the Changi Airport vicinity. And we have seen reasonable success,” he said.

He urged drone operators not to attempt to fly their drones within prohibited areas.

It is illegal to fly drones within 5km of airports or military air bases without a permit. Offenders face a fine of up to S$50,000 or two years’ jail, or both.

Reporters were taken on a tour of some facilities used by the authorities to detect drone activity near Changi Airport.

Mobile disruption team officers (in red vests) and ground enforcement officers ‪at the ‬counter-unmanned-aircraft system near Changi Airport on Nov 23, 2020. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY

CAAS said the Unmanned Aircraft Operations Command and Control Centre was set up in July 2019, the month after the two incidents of drone incursions.

Near one of the runways, the authorities have deployed a counter-unmanned-aircraft system, which resembles a small, white tower that uses radar to detect drones based on the size and flight pattern data it collects.

Information gathered from the system is fed to an operations room, where a dozen or so staff members monitor data coming from other equipment surveilling primarily the vicinity of Changi Airport.

After detecting an errant drone, ground enforcement officers and mobile disruption team officers armed with radio frequency jammers — which interfere with a drone’s controls — will be sent to apprehend the operators and take down the drones.

CAAS said there were eight cases before July 2019 and 44 cases this year.

Related topics

drones illegal Changi Airport security

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