Samwoh Corp fined $10,000 for unauthorised flying of drone

Former project manager at Samwoh, Mr Fong Woei Jiun, arriving at the State Courts on Nov 30, 2021. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Construction and engineering company Samwoh Corp was fined $10,000 after one of its employees flew drones on several occasions while unauthorised to do so.

The court heard that Mr Fong Woei Jiun, 45, was tasked with operating an unmanned aircraft to take aerial photographs of a construction site at Tampines Avenue 10. The pictures were to be provided to Samwoh's clients to show them the progress of the works.

The firm, which pleaded guilty to the offences on Monday (Aug 1), was aware that the permits were needed to use the drone, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sunil Nair.

On Sept 4, 2021, Mr Fong went to the site and flew a DJI Mavic 2 Pro for a total of 30 minutes to take aerial photos.

The drone was detected by the authorities and a police report was made.

Investigations showed that Mr Fong had forgotten to seek clearance from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to operate the drone that morning, and that he did not realise his previous permits had expired days before.

The firm was also unaware of the details of the permits as it had left it to Mr Fong to ensure its works complied with the law, as he was familiar with the use of drones.

Following the incident, Mr Fong informed project director Thoo Keng Hong, 51, that its use of drones was being investigated by the authorities.

Mr Fong was relieved of his duties as a project manager two days later and replaced by Mr Lu Chendi, 32.

On Oct 1, Mr Fong informed Mr Lu, who was now in charge, that he would be going to the site to take one last round of photos to provide updates.

After getting clearance from the authorities, Mr Fong flew the device for 16 minutes at a height of 265ft to get a better view of the site.

But this was beyond the maximum permitted altitude of 150ft, breaching the conditions of the permit, said the DPP.

Mr Fong left the company on Oct 9.

Mr Fong and Samwoh were in the news last November when the company was fined $17,000 for unauthorised drainage works in Tampines that led to a flood last August and Mr Fong was fined $7,500. The flood affected a 200m section at the junction of Tampines Avenue 10 and Pasir Ris Drive 12, and several vehicles were partially submerged and motorists needed help to escape.

Mr Fong had instructed an assistant site supervisor to construct a drain opening without specifying its appropriate dimensions. The drain that was eventually built was too small, directly affecting the storm water drainage system.

In a separate drone-related incident, a man who unlawfully operated a drone in 2020, causing two RSAF aircraft to be rerouted, was in April this year fined $51,000 - the largest sum for such a case.

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