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Dedicated drone flying area opens at Pandan Reservoir, amid rise in numbers of registered drones and offences

SINGAPORE — Drone enthusiasts now have a new dedicated flying spot at the Pandan Reservoir where they may fly their remote-controlled aircraft with less worry about unintentionally breaking the rules. 
An enthusiast flying a drone at the unmanned aircraft flying area at Pandan Reservoir on July 17, 2022.
An enthusiast flying a drone at the unmanned aircraft flying area at Pandan Reservoir on July 17, 2022.
  • An unmanned aircraft flying area at Pandan Reservoir was officially opened on July 17
  • Recreational drone pilots may fly their unmanned aircraft over a 400m-by-400m square area over the water 
  • Drone enthusiasts said the site gives them the assurance that they will not unintentionally break any rules flying there

SINGAPORE — Drone enthusiasts now have a new dedicated flying spot at the Pandan Reservoir where they may fly their remote-controlled aircraft with less worry about unintentionally breaking the rules. 

Transport Minister S Iswaran revealed on Sunday (July 17), at the official launch of the unmanned aircraft flying area, that the number of drones registered with the authorities has gone up four-fold.

Along with that, the authorities have also seen the number of drone-related offences picking up, he told reporters.

“From what I can see, the bulk of these offences, as it were, arise from a lack of understanding or awareness of the rules, more so than because of any (bad) intent.”

In response to media queries, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said that from July 1 last year to June 30 this year, there were 49 enforcement actions for non-compliance with unmanned aircraft systems regulations.

It added that there are 16,095 unmanned aircraft registered, of which 80 per cent weigh between 250g and 1.5kg

At Pandan Reservoir, which is 176 hectares in size, recreational drone pilots are allowed to fly their unmanned aircraft without needing an activity permit over a 400m-by-400m square or 16-ha area, as long as the drones are below 25kg and they are kept below 200 feet above mean sea level.

The area, which is near West Coast Highway, is marked out with flags tied onto buoys. It is open from 9am to 6pm daily.

This flying area has been set up a distance away from the nearest residential blocks to protect their privacy and security, CAAS said in a statement on Sunday.

Signs with information on the regulations and site guidelines have also been set up for drone pilots to learn the rules.

CAAS added that regular programmes and workshops will be held at the reservoir to educate the public on safe and responsible flying.

Prevailing rules will, however, still apply at the site. 

Before it can be used, any unmanned aircraft weighing more than 250g must still be registered with CAAS after paying a S$15 fee.

Users who wish to operate an unmanned aircraft weighing more than 1.5kg must undergo either basic training or obtain an unmanned aircraft pilot licence. 

Those flying their drones for commercial or educational purposes, such as when teachers or students use drones as part of a school event, will also need to apply for a permit to fly their drones at the Pandan Reservoir flying area.

As part of a soft launch last month, CAAS held five beginner drone workshops for 50 students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and the Singapore University of Technology and Design. 

Twenty-five hobbyist pilots were also invited to test the site and to give feedback. A Telegram chat group called “UA Flying Areas” has been set up where enthusiasts may receive the latest updates and notices about the flying area.

Setting up the unmanned aircraft flying area was a key recommendation of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Advisory Panel, set up in 2019 to help CAAS review its regulations.

VARIOUS RULES DAUNTING TO NAVIGATE

The various rules and regulations surrounding drone flying in Singapore can be daunting to navigate, especially for newcomers to the growing hobby, drone enthusiasts told TODAY.

Among the rules that enthusiasts have to abide by are: 

  • Not flying drones over restricted, danger, protected or prohibited areas and within 5km of an aerodrome or airbase
  • Not flying drones at some national parks, which are marked with "no flying signs" 
  • If flying drones at parks on high elevation, users have to ensure the drones do not fly over 200 feet, or about 60m, above the mean sea level if they do not have the permit to do so

Mr Saimen Imanuel, 27, head of operations and training at drone school Just Fly It, said that the Pandan Reservoir site gives enthusiasts such as himself the assurance that they will not get into unintended trouble with the authorities for flying their drones.

Sometimes when flying, there is uncertainty over whether or not they are breaking any rules, he added.

Even when he is outside a no-fly zone, he said that he will still check in with the authorities ahead of time to get the go-ahead.

With the hobby growing, enthusiast Liu Shisong, 29, said that popular haunts such as the large field along Old Holland Road are starting to get crowded, with up to 10 aircrafts flying at any one time.

The owner of drone services firm Phantom Wings added: “If the aircraft were to go out of control, there's a potential that you might fly across the road towards the landed properties.” 

With the flying area at Pandan Reservoir being above water, Mr Liu said that it is much safer than flying on Old Holland Road. 

“If something happens, it wouldn’t land on anyone,” he said. 

"But if the drone falls into the water, you probably won’t be able to retrieve it.”

Related topics

drone Pandan Reservoir CAAS unmanned aircraft hobby S Iswaran

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