Drone users welcome advisory panel's proposals

Drone users said that recommendations from the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Advisory Panel, if accepted by the Transport Ministry, would enable the public to feel more assured about drones.
Drone users said that recommendations from the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Advisory Panel, if accepted by the Transport Ministry, would enable the public to feel more assured about drones.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

A compulsory registration regime that makes drones traceable and requires a minimum registration age of 16 would improve safety, drone users said.

But they suggested capping registration fees at a lower level.

The users said that recommendations from the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Advisory Panel, if accepted by the Ministry of Transport, would also enable the public to feel more assured about drones.

Mr Farhan Tahir, one of the administrators of the Universal Drones - Singapore interest group, which has almost 7,000 members, said he agreed with most of the recommendations by the panel.

He said: "I think it's necessary to be able to identify drones if they have been caught going against the regulations.

"It would help identify errant drone pilots, who sadly affect other law-abiding ones."

Mr Mark Yong, chief executive of drone operations platform and solutions firm Garuda Robotics, said: "Coming from the industry perspective, we believe drones should be regulated because people need to see them as aircraft, not toys."

Mr Yong noted that the recommended safety requirements would not make a significant difference for commercial drone operators given that they already have safety standards to meet, but they could hit them hard in terms of costs.

He said: "We pay for the operator permit and activity permits... I hope fees for operators could be more reasonable."

Lecturer Scottz Lip, 42, who teaches his students how to operate drones as part of the environmental and water technology diploma at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said a registration regime would create a touch point for new drone users to learn about regulations and risks around drones.

 
 
 
 

But he added: "Considering the risks of not doing registration, and the benefits of doing it, I think it would be a good thing if the cost could be waived initially to get more people on board."

Countries such as Canada, China and the United States have already introduced mandatory drone registration regimes. Britain and Australia plan to do so.

The UAS Advisory Panel said that in most of these countries, the take-off weight is used as the primary criterion for drone registration, with 250g a common weight threshold requiring registration.

But the age benchmark varies. The minimum age for registration is 13 in the US, 16 in Australia and Ireland, 18 in Britain and 21 in the United Arab Emirates.

In all these registration regimes, drones are issued unique identifications. However, requirements on how the numbers are displayed differ.

The regimes also allow for registrations through online portals. But registration fees vary, ranging from $7 to $45, in contrast to the proposed $20 by the UAS Advisory Panel.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2019, with the headline 'Drone users welcome advisory panel's proposals'. Print Edition | Subscribe