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'Everything was in red': NSF caught flying drone near National Day Parade venue pleads guilty but claims he missed signage

SINGAPORE — Among the reasons which Tan Jin Kang gave for not knowing that drone-flying was disallowed around the National Day Parade venue was that the signboards were in red and they were not visible because the crowds were also in red.

Tan Jin Kang (pictured), 21, was running a test flight of the drone so that he could take photos of the fireworks at the National Day Parade, but he did not have a valid permit to do so.

Tan Jin Kang (pictured), 21, was running a test flight of the drone so that he could take photos of the fireworks at the National Day Parade, but he did not have a valid permit to do so.

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SINGAPORE — Among the reasons which Tan Jin Kang gave for not knowing that drone-flying was disallowed around the National Day Parade venue was that the signs were in red and they were not visible because the crowds were also in red.

The 21-year-old full-time national serviceman (NSF) also said he was unaware that various places around the Padang had been designated as a “Special Event Area” when he was caught flying a drone near the Singapore Flyer during last year’s parade.

On Tuesday (Jan 7), he pleaded guilty to the offence, in what is the first such case of someone being prosecuted for violating Section 26(3) of the Public Order Act, which essentially sets out rules pertaining to special event areas.

Tan, a first-time drone flyer, had violated the law by piloting a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom drone along Raffles Avenue on Aug 9 last year when it was prohibited at the time.   

Places declared as a “Special Event Area” were Gardens by the Bay, Circular Road, North Bridge Road, Victoria Street, and parts of Nicoll Highway and East Coast Parkway.

On Aug 9, as part of the enhanced security measures, members of the public were not allowed to fly any unmanned aerial vehicle without a valid permit between 12am and 11.59pm.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Benedict Teong told the court that Tan, who is a security trooper with the Singapore Armed Forces, was caught by a police sergeant who was patrolling close to 8pm that day.

When the policeman spotted the grey-coloured drone operated by Tan, it was about 4m to 5m in the air at the main jetty area of the Singapore Flyer.

He then followed the drone as it made its descent towards Raffles Avenue, where Tan was standing.

Investigations by the police found that Tan was running a test flight so that he could take photos of the fireworks later that evening. He did not have a valid permit to do so.

Tan also flew the drone for up to a distance of about 10.8m over a period of about 45 seconds in the special event area, court documents stated.

DPP Teong said that the drone, which weighed 905g, posed a risk to the crowds that had gathered that evening, and it was “fortuitous” that he had been stopped by the police.

The prosecutor added that there should not have been any excuses for Tan not to have known that the flying of drones was not allowed that day, barring a valid permit, because the announcement had been publicised.

Furthermore, numerous signs were put up around the special event area to warn potential drone operators not to fly their devices.

“There were two such signboards near where Tan was standing,” DPP Teong said.

DID NOT SEE SIGNBOARDS

Tan, who was not represented by a lawyer, told the court that he did not know about the law.

Looking downcast and slightly nervous as he stood in the dock, Tan spoke quickly as he tried to explain why he was flying his drone that day.

As he stumbled over his words several times, District Judge Christopher Goh told the young man to slow down and think carefully about what he wanted to say.

The judge, who had earlier explained to Tan the charges that he was facing, then paraphrased what Tan had said and asked if it was accurate.

Talking about the signboards, Tan said that he had walked to his destination from Benjamin Sheares Bridge, so he would not have seen them.

Even if he did, he said that the signs were all red in colour, which hid them from his view, because there were many people wearing red that day.

“I wouldn’t have seen (them),” he said. “(They) didn’t stand out as much as the (authorities) hoped (they) would.”

The prosecution is seeking a fine of S$4,000.

For the offence, he could be jailed up to 12 months, or fined up to S$20,000, or both.

As this is the first case of its kind, the judge said that he needed time to think through it. The case has been adjourned until Feb 18 for him to decide on the appropriate sentence.

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NSF drone NDP National Day court Singapore Flyer Padang crime

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