Man charged with illegally flying drone to take pictures of MINDEF’s Gombak Base, Gali Batu Depot

SINGAPORE: Over three days in October last year, a man allegedly flew a drone over protected areas and took illegal photos of the Ministry of Defence’s Gombak Base and the Gali Batu Depot.

Russell Wong Shin Pin, 20, was given eight charges in court on Thursday (Oct 15) under the Air Navigation Act and Infrastructure Protection Act.

He is accused of flying the drone without a relevant permit at a park beside Cashew Road and Upper Bukit Timah Road on Oct 8 last year.

On the same day, he allegedly flew the drone up to 225m over Gombak Base, which is a protected area, and took a photo of the base with the drone.

Charge sheets state that Wong went to a car park near Stagmont Ring the next day and flew the drone up to 543m above mean sea level and within 5km of Tengah Airbase aerodrome. He did not have a permit at the time, said court documents.

That day, he allegedly flew the drone over Gombak Base and used the drone to take a photo of Gali Batu Depot, which is also a protected place.

Wong is accused of similar acts on a third occasion on Oct 19, 2019, when he went to Dairy Farm Lane and flew a drone up to 574m above mean sea level and within 5km of Tengah Airbase aerodrome. He did not have the relevant permit at the time, said charge sheets.

Wong will return to court on Oct 29.

Under the Air Navigation Act, anyone convicted of operating a drone over any part of a protected area can be jailed for up to a year, fined up to S$20,000 or both. If convicted under the same Act of taking a photo of a protected area using a drone, he could be jailed for up to a year, fined up to S$20,000 or both.

For operating a drone without a permit, he could be fined up to S$20,000 if it is his first such conviction.

He could be jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$20,000 or both if convicted of taking prohibited photos of a protected area using a drone under the Infrastructure Protection Act.

The police said in a news release that they do not condone the flying of drones in an “unsafe and irresponsible” manner, as this poses risks to aviation and public safety and security.

They advised drone users to refer to the website or mobile application to check for areas where flying of drones is not allowed without a permit.

Any drone weighing more than 250g must be registered before it can be used in Singapore.

From Feb 1 next year, some drone users must obtain a certificate or licence before operating their drones in Singapore.

Source: CNA/ll

The 2020 Guide Drone Flying in Singapore

Updated: Oct 2020

The Recreational Flyer

By Feb 2021, you must have obtained a UABT (Unmanned Aircraft Basic Training) cert in order to operate a drone in Singapore if you’re operating a drone that is 1.5 – 7kg. It cost $30 and can be taken at authorised training organisations. As of writing, there are 2 such organisations here. If you’re flying the DJI Mavic 1, 2 Pro, Air, DJI Spark. You just need to have the CAAS stickers, stay below 200 feet, out of 5km of any aerodomes, you do not need a UABT to fly.

The Commercial Flyer

You will need to have a UAPL Unmanned Aircraft Pilot License. In order to get that, you will have to have attended an optional training with an approved training organisation, pay $125 for the theory test, completed a practical test then apply for the UAPL at $500 and has perpetual lifetime. Commercial flyers would have been informed a year in advanced, this is just for info.

The Tourist

You are on short term visit to Singapore, for holiday. If your drone is below 1.5kg, you do not need UABT. See above under recreational flyer.

Drone Registration

After you have hold any of the above, your drone must have been registered with CAAS. The stickers cost $15 each and must be displayed on the drone. Register here.

Fine City

So what if you do not have the above? What are the penalties?

Users who fail to comply with the UA Basic Training requirements could face a fine of up to $50,000, or imprisonment not exceeding 2 years, or both for a first offence and up to $100,000, or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, or both for a second or subsequent offence. In addition, users who fail to produce a valid UA Basic Training certificate, UA Pilot Licence (UAPL), activity or operator permit during the verification checks by CAAS enforcement officers could face a fine up to $20,000 for a first offence, and a fine of up to $40,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 15 months, or both for a second or subsequent offence.

It is what it is

As of writing, Aug 2020, this is what is being done and what will be done come Feb 2021. There are comments on how this is killing flying in Singapore, how it will stifles innovation or even STEM, education on drones. I think we have to see it from a safety point of view. There has been multiple cases of errant flyers. It was slowly coming to a point where the authorities have to step in. The comparison can be done with the Personal Mobility Devices (PMD) that was recently banned in Singapore. No e-scooters, hoverboards and electric skateboards etc on footpaths.

Do we want this hobby to be completed banned? There are 6000+ drones being registered with CAAS as of writing, do we want to be kept to a specific field, Singapore being already so small, how crowded will this field be?

Man fined $9k for flying drone in Punggol open field without permit

A 41-year-old man who flew a drone without permit in an open field in Punggol was fined $9,000 yesterday.

Tay Miow Seng pleaded guilty in the State Courts on Dec 27 last year to flying the drone for recreational purposes at the field within 5km of Paya Lebar Air Base without a valid Class 2 activity permit and operating it in a manner likely to endanger the safety of aircraft.

A separate charge of unlawfully flying his drone within Coney Island on March 26 last year was taken into consideration during sentencing yesterday.

The court had earlier heard that Tay and his friend Ed Chen Junyuan each flew a drone in the open field in Punggol on June 26 last year.

Both were detained on the same day by the police.

They were the first to be charged with unlawfully flying a drone in Singapore.

Chen was convicted and fined $2,000 last year.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said in a statement yesterday that it “takes a serious view of errant operations of unmanned aircraft which may pose threats to aviation or endanger the personal safety of others”.

It added that it will not hesitate to take enforcement action against operators of unmanned aircraft who contravene regulations.

Penalties for various offences involving unmanned aircraft, such as drones, were raised after Parliament passed amendments to the Air Navigation Act last year.

Those caught flying an unmanned aircraft without a valid permit face a maximum penalty of two years in jail and a $50,000 fine for first-time offenders, and five years in jail and a $100,000 fine for repeat offenders.

Any person who recklessly or knowingly operates an unmanned aircraft in a manner that endangers the life or property of another person can be jailed for up to 10 years, or fined up to $100,000, or both.A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2020, with the headline ‘Man fined $9k for flying drone in Punggol open field without permit’.

$5,000 fine for man who unlawfully flew drone before it got hit by an LRT train

SINGAPORE – A man who unlawfully flew a drone near Sengkang LRT station before it got struck by a train was fined $5,000 on Friday (Feb 21).

The incident on Feb 8, 2018 did not cause any damage to the train and services were not disrupted.

Homen Wong, 21, who was a full-time national serviceman when he committed the offence has since completed his national service.

On Dec 18 last year, he pleaded guilty to operating the drone in a manner that could endanger the safety of persons and property.

A second charge of operating the device without a valid Class 2 activity permit within 5km of two aerodromes – Seletar Airport and Paya Lebar Air Base – was considered during sentencing.

Wong had flown the DJI Mavic Pro drone at an open field next to Sengkang LRT station some time in the late afternoon without a valid Class 2 activity permit from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).

Deputy Public Prosecutor Houston Johannus had earlier told the court: “If he had applied for such an activity permit, CAAS would have required Homen to operate his drone in compliance with safe operating conditions.”

The DPP said the conditions included ensuring that the drone is not flown for longer than 85 per cent of the maximum battery endurance, and that it does not interfere with public transport or emergency service providers, or endanger members of the public.

Wong operated his drone at a maximum height of 50m that day.

He flew it over the train tracks, as he wanted to capture aerial videos and photographs of trains entering and leaving the LRT station.

DPP Johannus had earlier told District Judge Seah Chi-Ling: “Homen had not ensured its battery power was sufficient for the flight.

“As a result, Homen lost control of the drone and it landed autonomously on the train tracks of Sengkang LRT station where it was eventually struck by an LRT train.”

Wong later approached staff at the station and asked for their assistance to get the drone back.

They helped retrieve the damaged device a week later and returned it to him.

After this, Wong posted a video of the incident, entitled “DJI Mavic Pro survived train crash”, on YouTube.

SBS Transit then made a report to the CAAS about the incident on April 9, 2018.

Defence lawyer Josephus Tan told the court on Friday that his client intends to appeal against the sentence. Wong was offered bail of $5,000.

First-time offenders convicted of operating a drone in a manner that could endanger the safety of persons and property can be fined up to $20,000.

Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 months and fined up to $40,000.

$2.5k fine for man who flew drone at NDP area

A full-time national serviceman who unlawfully flew a drone near the Singapore Flyer at last year’s National Day Parade (NDP) was fined $2,500 yesterday.

Tan Jin Kang, 21, committed the offence even though there were signs in the area telling people not to do so.

In the first case of its kind, the Singaporean pleaded guilty last month to possessing the prohibited device at the spot, which had been declared a “special event area” under the Public Order Act.

He had gone to Raffles Avenue on Aug 9 last year to capture a video of a fireworks display later that evening.

He was flying the drone at around 7.50pm when a police officer, Sergeant Gordan Lee Wai Kong, 27, was notified by his command post about the device.

Sgt Lee went near the Singapore Flyer and spotted the drone flying at a height of about 5m.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Benedict Teong had earlier told District Judge Christopher Goh that, by the time Sgt Lee saw the drone, it was on its descent to a spot along Raffles Avenue in front of the Singapore Flyer.

When he walked over to the spot, he saw Tan using a controller to operate the drone and told him to stop.

The DPP said there were many signboards in the vicinity informing people they should not fly or have a drone in their possession at the time.

In his mitigation, Tan had told the court that he was not aware of the law and did not see the signs.

Pleading for leniency, he added that the signs were in red and “didn’t stand out” as they were “camouflaged” by the other red items associated with the NDP in the area.

For committing the offence under the Public Order Act, he could have been jailed for up to a year and fined a maximum of $20,000.

Drone Registration starts

All drones above 250 grams must be registered before use in Singapore.

Stickers for registration can be purchased online at Shitpost Singpost. it will be an offence to fly any drones above 250 grams without registration after 2 April 2020. There is a grace peroid of 3 months from today, 2 Jan 2020.

More info here.