S'pore branch of China Railway First Group fined $22,000 for flying drone without permit

An assistant administration manager had operated the drone to take aerial photos of the 62A Marymount Road construction site, without permits. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore branch of the China Railway First Group (CRFG), a construction company, was on Wednesday (Feb 23) fined $22,000 for flying an unmanned drone in public areas without a permit.

The company used a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom drone weighing nearly 900g on nine occasions between April 19 and June 19 last year, the court heard.

A representative of the CRFG pleaded guilty in a district court to four charges under the Air Navigation Act.

Another 14 similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

An assistant administration manager of the company had operated the drone to take aerial photographs of a construction site at 62A Marymount Road, even though the CRFG did not have the permits to do so.

The firm had been awarded a contract by the Land Transport Authority in December 2018 to build a 1.1km section of tunnel between Marymount Lane and Pemimpin Place.

Court documents did not reveal if the photographs were taken to aid in the tunnel's construction.

Under the law, the CRFG required a Class 1 activity permit and an unmanned aircraft operator permit from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to operate the drone at the construction site.

The assistant administration manager had flown the drone along Marymount Road and over some buildings in Pemimpin Place in order to capture a panoramic view of the construction site.

The drone took a similar flight path on all nine occasions.

Seeking a fine of at least $24,000, Deputy Public Prosecutor Andrew Chia said the unauthorised operations had greatly endangered the safety of the public and property.

"The high altitude at which the drone was flown also posed serious consequences for aircraft safety," he added.

In mitigation, the company's representative said they were unaware of the regulations here regarding the use of unmanned aircraft: "We only knew we breached the regulations after we were caught and informed by Cisco officers."

He added that the CRFG had worked to remedy the issue by hiring subcontractors to carry out area photography for them.

For each offence under the Air Navigation Act, an offender can be fined up to $50,000 and jailed for up to two years.

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