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Flying drones in Singapore? All the things you need to know and do from Jan 2, 2020 onwards

SINGAPORE — Drone enthusiasts here and from overseas will now have to register their unmanned aircraft if they wish to use it while they are on holiday in Singapore.

Flying drones in Singapore? All the things you need to know and do from Jan 2, 2020 onwards

Anyone who owns a drone that weighs more than 250g must have it registered with the the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore before it can be operated here. Registrants must be aged 16 and above.

SINGAPORE — Drone enthusiasts here and from overseas will now have to register their unmanned aircraft if they wish to use it while they are on holiday in Singapore.

There will also be tougher penalties for offences involving drones, after Parliament passed changes to the Air Navigation (Amendment) Bill on Monday (Nov 4).

Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Transport, said that the Ministry of Transport (MOT) will be working with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Changi Airport Group on “how to raise awareness” on these regulations, to ensure visitors do not run afoul of the new rules.

Dr Lam’s announcement came in response to questions posed by Mr Dennis Tan, Non-constituency Member of Parliament (MP) for the Workers’ Party, after details on changes to the Bill were read.

Here are what you need to know about the new regulations that will affect the operation of all unmanned aircraft in Singapore from Jan 2 next year.

1. Who is affected?

Anyone who owns a drone that weighs more than 250g must have it registered with CAAS before it can be operated in Singapore.

2. What am I required to do?

During registration, the owner will have to buy a label that bears a unique registration number for the drone and submit a photo of the aircraft to be affixed with the label. There will be a registration fee of S$15 for each drone.

The labels can be bought online on the websites of CAAS or Singapore Post, or over the counter at 27 designated post offices.

Registrants must be aged 16 and above.

Once the label is bought, complete the registration process on an online site for unmanned aircraft. CAAS will release details of this site at a later date.

3. How long do I have to register my drone?

Owners will have a three-month grace period from Jan 2 next year to register.

4. What is the penalty for non-compliance?

It will be an offence to operate or fly an unregistered drone in Singapore from April 2 next year. Offenders could face a fine of up to S$10,000, or be jailed up to six months, or both. 

HARSHER PENALTIES

Dr Lam said that most operators fly their drones responsibly in compliance with regulations, but he noted that there are reckless and irresponsible users who “operate in flagrant disregard of the law”.

To further deter this group, penalties will be raised for various offences.

  • Flying a drone without the required aviation safety instruments, or without the required operator and activity permits: A discretionary jail term (given at the discretion of the courts) of up to two years for first-time offenders, and up to five years for repeat offenders. The maximum fines will remain at S$50,000 for first-time offenders and S$100,000 for repeat offenders.

  • Flying over or taking photographs of a protected area, or discharging substances without authorisation: For instance, it is illegal to fly drones within 5km of airports or military airbases, or at altitudes above 61m, without a permit. For first-time offenders, the maximum fine will be raised from S$20,000 to S$50,000. It will also include a jail term of up two years, up from the present 12 months. As for repeated offenders, there will be a fine of up to S$100,000, or a jail term of up to five years, or both. There is no penalty now for repeat offenders. 

  • For not complying with a direction given by an enforcement officer regarding the operation of the drone: The jail term has been raised from 12 months to two years, while the maximum fine remains at S$20,000.

  • For committing a reckless act involving a drone that endangers life or property, or for allowing it to happen: Those found guilty of this offence can expect a fine of up to S$100,000, or a jail term of up to 10 years, or both. Dr Lam said that the operator will not be excused even if he has a permit from CAAS.

In enforcing these regulations more strictly, the National Civil Aviation Security Authority has been enabled to delegate its powers to a public officer who is not an aviation security inspector. 

Dr Lam said that this will give greater flexibility to the authority to delegate powers to a bigger group of individuals in cases where the enforcement powers of an aviation security inspector are not required.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Mr Dennis Tan of the Workers’ Party, who was the only MP to speak on the Bill, asked how the Government intended to educate all drone users as well as the public on the restrictions for drone use and the punishments for illegal uses.

Dr Lam said that CAAS works with other government agencies, including the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence to educate the public on how to operate unmanned aircraft “responsibly and in compliance with regulations”.

Apart from issuing advisory fliers that “highlights the do's and don'ts on the safe and responsible operation of unmanned aircraft”, Dr Lam said that CAAS’ other outreach efforts include safety talks and seminars to “engage and educate” different user groups on the regulatory framework. 

‘SAFEGUARDING OUR AERODOMES’

Mr Tan also asked if the culprits behind the multiple drone incursions at Changi Airport in June had been identified yet.

“Investigations are still ongoing,” Dr Lam said. “Since June 2019, there have been no intrusions that (have) affected operations of Changi Airport.”

In response to Mr Tan’s questions about Singapore’s measures to counter unmanned aircraft systems, Dr Lam assured the House that CAAS and the Changi Airport Group are investing in technologies to “safeguard our aerodomes”.

“Unmanned aircraft intrusions can be very difficult to detect and encounter, because they can be very small and do not show up well on sensors,” Dr Lam said.

Aside from providing training for personnel, there are plans to customise and calibrate “commercial systems for Changi Airport” with the help of Singapore’s defence science agencies, he added.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that anyone who owns a drone that weighs 250g and above must have it registered with CAAS before it can be operated in Singapore. This is incorrect. The total weight of the drone should be more than 250g. We are sorry for the error.

Related topics

drone penalty registration CAAS Changi Airport jail fine Dennis Tan

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