$5,000 fine for man who lost control of drone that got hit by LRT train

Homen Wong had flown the drone over the tracks to get aerial videos of trains entering and leaving the station.
Homen Wong had flown the drone over the tracks to get aerial videos of trains entering and leaving the station.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

He had flown device near Sengkang LRT station without valid permit from CAAS

A man who unlawfully flew a drone that later got struck by a train at Sengkang LRT station was fined $5,000 yesterday.

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

Homen Wong, 21, was a full-time national serviceman when he committed the offence and 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 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, he 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, titled "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 yesterday 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2020, with the headline '$5,000 fine for man who lost control of drone that got hit by LRT train'. Print Edition | Subscribe