Singapore to set up designated drone-flying areas

These authorised flying areas will give new users assurance that they are allowed to fly their drones at these sites. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Those who fly 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.

On Friday (Jan 15), Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said more details on how such spaces will be set up and where they will be located would be settled on in the coming months.

The ministry's acceptance of the recommendation comes about two months after it was 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.

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

The area itself should be big enough so that different operators can fly their vehicles in a safe manner, have charging points and proper lighting, and be kept affordable for users.

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

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

Under rules in place ensure the safety of flyers there, drones must be lighter than 12kg and the park limits the number of drones allowed to fly 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 on Friday that the Government supports the recommendation made by the panel, and that he 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.

It had in August suggested to the Government that drones should be made traceable and that a minimum registration age of 16 be set for users to improve safety.

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

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