SINGAPORE - From Jan 2 next year, all drones that weigh more than 250g will have to be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) before they can be used in Singapore.
Penalties for various offences involving unmanned aircraft will also be raised, after Parliament passed the Air Navigation (Amendment) Bill on Monday (Nov 4).
Currently, first-time offenders caught flying a drone without a valid permit could be fined up to $20,000. Repeat offenders could be jailed for up to 15 months and fined up to $40,000.
Going forward, first-time offenders could be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $50,000, while repeat offenders could be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000, as part of tightened penalties for offences involving all aircraft.
The maximum fine and jail term for flying a drone over a protected area will also be raised, from $20,000 to $50,000 and from 12 months to two years respectively, for first-time offenders.
Repeat offenders previously faced the same penalty for this offence but could now be fined up to $100,000 and jailed for up to five years.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said the tightened regulations will help create greater accountability and traceability among users of unmanned aircraft.
Noting that the current penalty for most offences involving drones is a fine of up to $20,000, Dr Lam said: “This has obviously not served as a deterrent. We need to make sure that we have higher penalties for repeat offenders who fail to learn from their mistakes.”
The 250g requirement follows a set of recommendations from a 12-member advisory panel accepted by the Transport Ministry last month.
The panel had cited studies showing that drones above 250g falling on a person’s head would result in serious injury.
Drone users will have a three-month grace period from Jan 2 to register their devices. They can purchase registration labels online or over the counter at designated post offices, before completing the registration online.
The mandatory registration and stiffer penalties come in the wake of two illegal drone incursions that disrupted operations at Changi Airport in June, resulting in 55 flight delays and eight diversions.
Responding to Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan who asked if the culprits have been identified, Dr Lam said investigations are still ongoing and he had no further updates at this point.
He added that there have been no illegal drone incursions at Changi Airport since the two incidents in June.
Mr Tan urged the Government to educate the public, as well as tourists and foreigners, on the new regulations. “Changing the law per se, and charging the odd person and hoping to make an example, may not be sufficient to ensure that all users know the law,” he said.
Dr Lam said CAAS will continue to engage the public and interest groups, pointing to a range of existing outreach efforts by CAAS to raise awareness.