Parliament: Review for drone use underway amid increased applications for unmanned flights

A camera drone operated by a civilian flies near the scene where two buildings were destroyed in an explosion in New York, in this file photo taken on March 12, 2014. Between 20 and 30 per cent of 70 applications for permits to fly drones in Sin
A camera drone operated by a civilian flies near the scene where two buildings were destroyed in an explosion in New York, in this file photo taken on March 12, 2014. Between 20 and 30 per cent of 70 applications for permits to fly drones in Singapore were rejected last month, said Senior Minister of State for  Transport Josephine Teo in Parliament on Thursday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Between 20 and 30 per cent of 70 applications for permits to fly drones in Singapore were rejected last month, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo in Parliament on Thursday.

These applications were rejected mainly because of safety as there was the risk of manned aircraft flying nearby, she said.

The rejections came amid a boom in the number of applications for drones in January, which increased sixfold from the average of 12 per month last year.

Unmanned aircraft weighing 7kg or less require a permit from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) if they are flown within 5km of an aerodrome, or at an altitude higher than 200 feet above mean sea level outside 5km of an aerodrome.

The Ministry of Transport and the CAAS, along with other government ministries and agencies, have also started a review of the regulatory framework for drones.

It will address the increasing use of unmanned aircraft and the safety and security concerns that come with it. The review will also assess if differentiated levels of oversight is needed for different uses of drones.

The review is also looking at the need to register such unmanned aircraft, and locations where such systems can or cannot operate.

Responding to Dr Lim Wee Kiak's (Nee Soon GRC) question of when the study will be concluded, Mrs Teo said consultation with the relevant stakeholders is taking place in the next few months, and that the extensive regulations have to be studied before the Government can give a firm timeline.

"This is a multi-agency effort. As we are doing the review, we are also taking a closer look at countries such as the US and Australia who are similarly looking at the regulatory framework because there are lessons to be learnt and experiences to be shared," she said.