Construction company first firm to be charged over unpermitted drone use

SINGAPORE - A construction company was taken to court on Tuesday (May 28) after it allegedly operated a drone outdoors without a proper permit.

In the first case of its kind here, the Singapore branch of LT Sambo was charged with one count of an offence under the Air Navigation Order.

The firm, which used to be known as Sambo E&C, is expected to plead guilty on June 18.

The court heard that LT Sambo operated a small unmanned aircraft (UA) outdoors "in the course of business" without a Class 1 activity permit, along Marine Parade Road on Nov 17, 2017.

Court documents did not reveal the details behind the firm's alleged use of the drone, which was identified as a DJI Phantom 4 and weighed 1.3kg.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) stated on its website that a Class 1 activity permit is needed for activities involving UA that are "not recreational or research in nature".

The CAAS added that such situations include competitive UA races held by private organisers and businesses providing aerial surveying or photography services.

A Class 1 activity permit is not valid without a UA operator permit which is also granted by CAAS.

The operator permit is granted to applicants if they are able to ensure the safe operation of the drones.

For recreational and research purposes, permits are not required for drones 7kg and below, including payload, and if they are flown outside prohibited areas, and at an altitude not exceeding 200 feet above mean sea level.

The CAAS said that given Singapore's busy airspace and densely populated urban environment, the flying of a UA must be carried out in a "safe and responsible manner".

It added: "If not carried out properly, the operation of UA may pose a risk to aviation and public safety."

First-time offenders convicted of flying a drone without a Class 1 activity permit can be fined up to $20,000.

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

Correction note: This article has been updated for clarity.