New rules on drone usage coming soon; Bill with stiffer penalties for offences introduced in Parliament

A drone operator flying without an activity permit or other required aviation safety instruments can be jailed up to two years for the first offence, and up to five years for subsequent offences.
A drone operator flying without an activity permit or other required aviation safety instruments can be jailed up to two years for the first offence, and up to five years for subsequent offences.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - New regulations governing drone usage, including compulsory registration of all devices with a take-off weight of above 250g and a minimum operator age of 16, could be implemented "as soon as the end of this year".

These are among the recommendations the Transport Ministry has accepted from an advisory panel, which was set up to propose a framework to regulate drone usage.

Other new measures the panel had recommended include making an unmanned aircraft identifiable and capping the registration fee of a drone at $20.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min announced the acceptance of the recommendations on Monday (Oct 7) in a Facebook post.

He said: "The recommendations are sensible. We need greater accountability, considering the impact drones can have on humans and property.

"I have asked the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to announce details (of the implementation) in the coming weeks."

He also said the authorities are stepping up public education efforts and looking at tougher penalties to deter errant use of the drones.

These increased penalties for errant users of unmanned aircraft have been proposed under the Air Navigation (Amendment) Bill, which was introduced in Parliament on Monday by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

A Transport Ministry factsheet said a drone operator flying without an activity permit or other required aviation safety instruments can be jailed up to two years for the first offence, and up to five years for subsequent offences.

 
 
 
 

Currently, such errant operators are fined up to $50,000 for the first offence and up to $100,000 for subsequent offences. There is no jail term.

Both sets of measures come amid increased scrutiny of drone safety, following two illegal incursions that disrupted operations at Changi Airport in June.

The two incidents led to 55 flight delays and eight diversions. Similar incidents had also been reported in other places, like Gatwick Airport near London.

The Transport Ministry factsheet also shows penalties will be stiffened for offences such as taking unauthorised photographs of a protected area, flying over a protected area, and using the aircraft in a way that endangers the life or property of another person.

The punishments include longer jail time and higher fines.