NTU housing manager fined $7,500 for flying drone to check if hall rooftop was cleaned

9 Nov 2021

SINGAPORE – A housing and auxiliary services manager at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) wanted to check if the roof at a hall on campus was properly cleaned, so he flew his unlicensed drone to take pictures of it.

On Monday (Nov 8), Albert Yu Yeong Jian, 54, was fined $7,500 for flying the 570g unregistered drone last year. He flew it again later that same morning at an altitude exceeding 200 feet (61m) above mean sea level, which requires a permit he did not have.

Four other similar charges were taken into account for his sentencing.

NTU told The Straits Times that Yu is still an employee with the university and any employee who violates the law and university rules may be subject to disciplinary action.

The court heard that on May 27 last year at about 8am, Yu, who was unrepresented in court, operated his unmanned aircraft, or drone, to take pictures of the rooftop of Hall 4.

“The accused did so on the request of a colleague to determine whether cleaning of the rooftop had been properly carried out,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh.

The colleague’s name was not mentioned in court documents.

Soon after, Yu drove to Carpark F of NTU and operated the drone from there to take pictures for recreational purposes.

Investigations revealed that during this flight, the drone operated at a maximum altitude of around 155m near NTU’s Sports and Recreation Hall.

The offences were detected by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) aeroscope. RSAF personnel contacted Yu, who complied with their requests to land the drone.

DPP Koh urged the court for a fine of $8,000, noting that NTU is an educational and residential site and “foot traffic would not be small” should the drone stop working and fall.

The prosecution added that one of the charges taken into account for sentencing involves Yu flying the drone within 5km of Tengah Air Base, where it could have potentially caused disruption or harm to aircraft operations.

In sentencing, District Judge Lorraine Ho noted that Yu had since obtained the relevant licences to operate his drone, and is also a first-time offender.

For operating the unmanned aircraft which is not registered in Singapore by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Yu could have been fined $10,000, jailed for up to six months, or both.

For operating the drone outdoors without the relevant activity permit for a recreational purpose, Yu could have been fined up to $50,000, jailed for up to two years, or both.