No need for drone hobbyists here to register their devices: CAAS

Local hobbyists welcome the decision not to make registration compulsory, saying that it would be an unnecessary hassle.
Local hobbyists welcome the decision not to make registration compulsory, saying that it would be an unnecessary hassle.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Recreational drone users here can continue flying their machines without needing to first register them.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has indicated that it is not following in the footsteps of the United States, which recently made it compulsory for recreational drone operators to register their devices.

"There are no plans to implement the registration of unmanned aircraft in Singapore," a CAAS spokesman said in response to queries from The Straits Times.

The local drone community was abuzz after the US announced the new rule last December, with hobbyists wondering if the Singapore authorities would follow suit.

Registration in the US opened on Dec 21 last year and drone owners must register with the Federal Aviation Administration by Feb 19 or face up to a US$250,000 (S$357,000) fine, or three years' jail. To date, the US and Ireland are the only two countries that require mandatory drone registration.

  • Current drone regulations

  • Drone operators are not allowed to do the following without first getting a permit from the CAAS:

    •Fly within 5km of an aerodrome, such as an airport or airbase.

    •Fly more than 200ft (61m) above mean sea level.

    •Operate drones that weigh more than 7kg.

    •Operate drones for commercial or specialised services, such as surveying or commercial videography.

    •Fly within restricted areas, such as army camps or special event zones like the Formula 1 racetrack.

    •Use drones to discharge any substances, for instance, at parties, where drones may be used to squirt bubbles or water.

    Lester Hio

Local hobbyists welcome the clarification, saying that registration would be an unnecessary hassle.

Drone hobbyist Claudia Ng, in her 30s, who owns The Drone Shop, said: "That's good news. I'm glad CAAS has been very supportive of the adoption of drone technology and they have been very open to community feedback."

Said fellow drone hobbyist and sales manager Steven Neo, 48: "If there are restrictions put on this hobby, it may deter people from playing with drones, and stops us from using them in more creative or innovative ways."

The Ministry of Transport and CAAS, along with other government ministries and agencies, have been conducting a year-long review of the regulatory framework for drones. One of the key issues in the review is balancing the safety of drones with the growing popularity of the hobby.

Professor Ben Chen, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the National University of Singapore, suggested that registration could be limited to drones above a certain weight.

"Drones, especially those that weigh over a certain limit, can be quite dangerous when they crash," said Prof Chen.

"Registration might create some inconvenience for hobby users. It would, however, benefit the public and the industry in the long run."

Regulators are struggling to keep pace with rapid advances in drone technology as the industry continues to push out more ambitious and innovative products.

For instance, Chinese company EHang unveiled a human-sized drone at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in the US last month.

A human can be fitted inside the drone and flown around, raising questions about the safety of such technology, which are not addressed by current regulations.

But other experts point out that drone manufacturers have increasingly been cooperating with regulatory bodies to ensure that safety concerns are met.

Assistant Professor of Law Chen Siyuan, from the Singapore Management University, agreed with the decision not to have drones registered.

He said:"This is sensible because registration usually leads to other inconveniences, such as certification and insurance.

"There needs to be more flexibility and an appreciation that the improving technology is increasing safety standards, and that manufacturers are actually willing to work with the authorities to make things safer and more reliable."

He added: "Regulations are not the only way to go."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2016, with the headline 'No need for drone hobbyists here to register their devices'. Print Edition | Subscribe