Parliament: New regulations for drones and unmanned aircraft from June

SINGAPORE - Drone operators will have a clearer set of rules to abide by under enhanced regulations to unmanned aerial vehicles from June this year.

The Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Bill, introduced by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew in Parliament on Monday, aims to streamline current regulations while ensuring the safe usage of such devices.

Under the new bill, drones weighing less than 7kg or less can be flown for recreational and private uses without a permit unless they meet certain restrictions.

The new framework prohibits the carriage of dangerous materials, such as weapons or bio-chemical or radioactive material by unmanned aircraft. It also prohibits the discharge of any substance from an unmanned aircraft without a permit.

A permit is also required for drones used for commercial purposes or specialised services, such as surveying or flying display performances.

The new bill will also gazette security-sensitive locations as "protected areas", where drones cannot fly over nor take photographs without a permit.

Such regulations will also apply for "special event areas", or venues designated for major events, such as some areas of the Southeast Asian Games.

Existing regulations will apply as well under the bill. Operators must obtain a permit to fly a drone that weighs more than 7kg. They must also have permits to fly within 5km of an aerodrome, regardless of height, or at altitudes above 200ft (61m) above mean sea level when they are 5km or more outside of an aerodrome.

These regulations are expected to take effect on June 1.

From that date onwards, operators who have to apply for permits can do so solely through the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore's online permit application system. It will serve as a one-stop centre for all permit applications, instead of requiring operators to apply separately to different agencies by themselves.

There will be a second reading of the bill at Parliament's next available sitting.