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Panel proposes all drones above 250g to be registered, minimum registration age of 16

SINGAPORE — All unmanned aircraft weighing above 250g should be registered with the authorities before they can be allowed to fly and only those 16 years and above may register such drones.

Panel proposes all drones above 250g to be registered, minimum registration age of 16

A panel has recommended that registration become mandatory for all unmanned aircraft above 250g and pilots must be at least 16 years old.

SINGAPORE — All unmanned aircraft weighing above 250g should be registered with the authorities before they can be allowed to fly and only those 16 years and above may register such drones. 

These were among the proposals released on Tuesday (Aug 27) and submitted to the Ministry of Transport by the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Advisory Panel, which was formed a month before multiple unmanned aircraft or drone intrusions delayed flights at Changi Airport in June. The need for a mandatory registration regime was first announced in a Parliament sitting in July. The panel recommended that the registration fee should not exceed $20, adding that it took reference from the personal mobility device registration regime earlier this year.

To encourage registration, the panel also proposed a three-month grace period for users to register their drones with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), after which “effective enforcement” should take place.

Registration should be mandatory for all types of unmanned aerial drones, such as multi-rotors, aeroplanes and helicopters, including those sold commercially or assembled by the user, it said.

The panel said that registration only targets drones above 250g as studies have shown that an unmanned aircraft above that threshold could cause serious injury if it falls on a person’s head.

Similar weight thresholds exist in drone registration regulations in other jurisdictions, such as China and the United States.

As for the minimum age for registration, the panel said that this would ensure registrants are “of sufficient maturity”, given the potential consequences arising from errant drone-flying. Those below 16 should only be allowed to fly drones under adult supervision, it added. 

When registered, the drone should be "identifiable and traceable to the registrant to facilitate investigations" if the need arises.

Registration will also apply to foreigners, who will have to register their drone use when visiting Singapore.

This is a departure from the current practice, in which drone pilots can sometimes fly without having to inform the authorities.

Currently, a permit is not needed so long as the users' device fits certain weight and altitude restrictions, they are not flying it for commercial reasons, and are not flying within 5km of an aerodrome or airbase, among other factors.

If the recommendations are accepted, visitors to Singapore must register their drones with the CAAS before they can fly a drone at the Marina Barrage or in the Bukit Timah area for example.

Mr Timothy De Souza, a veteran who was a member of the air force’s Black Knights aerobatics team and chaired the panel, said the recommendations had taken three months for the independent panel to develop.

Around 150 industry stakeholders, including hobbyist and aviation experts, were involved in focus group discussions to review Singapore’s drone regulatory framework.

“Singapore is a small country with a crowded urban environment where airspace is limited but an extremely precious resource with many competing uses. To promote the beneficial uses of unmanned aircraft (UA), it is important that we ensure that UA operators or users fly responsibly and safely,” he said. 

In response to the recommendations, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min wrote on Facebook: “I am heartened to read of the Panel’s support for mandatory drone registration to forge responsible use and accountability among the drone community. The panel gave useful suggestions on how such a regime can be implemented in Singapore, taking reference from other countries.”

He added that the Government will study the recommendations carefully and announce the implementation details in due course.

WHAT HOBBYISTS AND RETAILERS SAY 

Mr Farhan Tahir, administrator of the Facebook hobby group, Universal Drones – Singapore which has nearly 7,000 members, agreed with most of the recommendations as drone registration was “inevitable” given how little air space Singapore has.

“The air force does use up a lot of the already small airspace, and the drone hobby has been growing rather rapidly in the past couple of years,” he said. 

However, he believes that most hobbyists would consider registration a “troublesome” extra step. “With that in mind, we hope the government would consider the recommendations to make it as easy and fast as possible for drone pilots to register,” said Mr Farhan.

Some retailers told TODAY that the move would discourage the hobby in general, especially since the age limit would restrict the number of young people who can try flying drones for the first time.

Mr P K Lee, co-founder of Rotor Hobby Enterprises, lamented that the recommendations could seriously impact his company. Established in 1990, his business of selling remote control aeroplanes and helicopters preceded the camera drone trend in recent years.

But sales have dwindled lately owing to increased regulations and online competition, he said, and his company has made plans to exit the industry if necessary. The move to impose the age limit, in particular, would affect interest in the hobby, he added.

He said in Mandarin: “There are already so many drone rules today. Having more would not help the industry in general.”

Related topics

UAS aircraft drone

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