Designated public areas for flying drones to be set up

People flying their drones at an open field in Old Holland Road. An unmanned aircraft systems advisory panel said in its report that the setting up of common drone-flying spaces will enable recreational drone users to gather and "foster a culture of
People flying their drones at an open field in Old Holland Road. An unmanned aircraft systems advisory panel said in its report that the setting up of common drone-flying spaces will enable recreational drone users to gather and "foster a culture of safety among the community". ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Those who enjoy flying drones can look forward to doing so at designated public areas, with the Transport Ministry accepting a panel's recommendation to provide common flying spaces to increase interest in the activity.

Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said last Friday that more details on how such spaces will be set up and where they will be located will be settled on in the coming months.

The ministry's acceptance of the recommendations comes about two months after they were made by the unmanned aircraft (UA) systems advisory panel appointed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore in 2019.

The panel's report, dated Nov 18 last year, said the setting up of these common spaces will enable recreational drone users to gather and "foster a culture of safety among the community".

These authorised flying areas will also give new users the assurance that they are allowed to fly their drones at these sites, the panel said.

The flying areas should fulfil several criteria, the panel proposed.

Drone users should not intrude on the safety of other air space users such as commercial airplanes, a set of safety guidelines for these flying areas must be drawn up, and operation of the sites must be sensitive to the concerns of the wider public.

The sites should also be big enough so that different users can fly their drones in a safe manner, have charging points and proper lighting, and be kept affordable for users.

The operation of these areas should also be financially sustainable so they can continue long term.

The report cited examples in countries such as the United States, Japan and South Korea. The Hangang Drone Park in Seoul, for example, is a 27,000 sq m flying field within Gawngnaru Hangang Park that is specially designated for drone flying.

There are rules in place to ensure the safety of users: Drones must be lighter than 12kg, and there is a limit on the number of drones that can be flown at any one time.

Users must also be able to see their drones at all times and cannot fly them directly above people.

The report said: "We propose that UA flying areas be developed and implemented in a manner that is suited to Singapore's context.

"Based on a scan of UA flying areas across the world, we note that UA flying areas could range from sites that are for co-use to sites that are exclusive-use; sites which are rented for a few hours to sites that are set aside for UA operations on a longer-term basis. Some are community-initiated while others are government-led."

Mr Ong said the Government supports the recommendation made by the panel. He added that he has tried flying a drone at a flying field in Port Road.

The proposal to set up flying areas is the second and final set of recommendations that the panel has proposed to the ministry.

Last August, it suggested that drones should be made traceable and that a minimum registration age of 16 be set for users.

The panel had reached out to different groups including residents to review regulations surrounding drone-flying, which is a relatively niche but growing hobby here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2021, with the headline 'Designated public areas for flying drones to be set up'. Subscribe