Received a drone? Watch the rules

Drones are popular gifts, especially this festive season, prompting the CAAS to issue an updated list on the dos and don'ts of responsible flying.
Drones are popular gifts, especially this festive season, prompting the CAAS to issue an updated list on the dos and don'ts of responsible flying.PHOTO: AVETICS

Drones are a popular Christmas gift this year, prompting the authorities to remind recreational drone fliers who may have received the latest model toy to practise safe flying.

An updated list of dos and don'ts has been put out by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) for these hobbyists, including those flying drones for the first time.

The precautionary move was taken because since new regulations kicked in June last year, there have been about 25 cases of drone operators flying foul of the rules.

The regulations spell out, among others, when a drone-flying permit is required and where drones can be flown safely.

CAAS director for the aviation industry, Mr Daniel Ng, said the campaign is being done in the interest of flight and public safety, and to raise people's awareness "on the need to fly their drones safely and responsibly". It was launched last week.

Desired flying practices include sending the mini-machines up in the sky only when the weather is clear and visibility is good, said the CAAS.

Users are also advised to keep their drones in sight all the time and not to fly over crowds or areas where they may interfere with emergency or moving vehicles.

A permit is a must when the drone weighs more than 7kg, flies above a height of 60m or is used for commercial purposes.

Operators also need to apply for a permit to ensure they do not fly over restricted and dangerous zones, including within 5km of an airport or airbase.

Those who break the rules can be fined up to $20,000 for their first offence. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $40,000, jailed up to 15 months, or given both punishments.

Drone retailers like Rotor Hobby say Christmas sales have risen.

Rotor is selling about 20 per cent more this festive month, especially for the cheaper models that start from as low as $39, said its manager, Ms Swen Lee. She added that first-timers "actually ask us for advice as they're afraid they may do something illegal".

Mr Alvin Lim, who works at The Drone Shop, said the store "has a big poster listing the dos and don'ts that we show to new fliers".

Mr Felix Oking, 34, an administrator of drone hobby group Universal Drones Singapore, said newcomers should preferably not go it alone on their maiden flight.

"They should do it with an experienced flier.''

He added: "New fliers can also join online drone groups, where they can get advice and tips on how to fly their drones."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2016, with the headline 'Received a drone? Watch the rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe