Man fined $9,000 for flying drone near Paya Lebar Air Base

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
The offence took place within the vicinity of Block 128C Punggol Field Walk. PHOTO: Screenshot from Google Street View

SINGAPORE — A 41-year-old man flew his drone more than 430m high within 1.7km of Paya Lebar Air Base, endangering the safety of aircraft, a court heard.

At the State Courts on Thursday (5 March), Tay Miow Seng was fined $9,000.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge each of flying an unmanned aircraft without a valid Class 2 activity permit and operating an unmanned aircraft in a manner likely to endanger the safety of aircraft.

Another charge of flying an unmanned aircraft without a valid Class 2 activity permit at Coney Island on a separate occasion was considered in sentencing.

About the case

On 26 June last year, at about 9.30pm, a drone was sighted in the Punggol Field Walk area by the Paya Lebar Air Base Aeroscope system. It was about 1.66km away from the Paya Lebar Aerodrome.

An alert was broadcast to all principal staff of the Air Base. The alert also informed Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) officers that the police had been alerted by the Air Base command centre and were being despatched to the area of the sighting.

An off-duty RSAF officer who was near Punggol Field Walk received the alert and drove his car towards the location. While driving there, he saw blinking lights in the open field near 128C Punggol Field Walk.

The officer parked his car and hurried over to Tay and his friend Ed Chen Junyuan, 37.

“The witness informed Chen and Tay that this was a ‘no-fly-zone’ and that they were not allowed to operate their drones in the area,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Dwayne Lum.

“Tay admitted to the witness that he was aware that the area was a ‘no-fly-zone’ but that it had ‘slipped his mind’ as he was excited to teach Chen how to operate his drone,” added the prosecutor.

The RSAF officer identified himself and told Tay and Chen that the police were on their way. Officers arrived about 10 minutes later and detained the culprits.

Investigations revealed that Tay had bought his 430g drone in 2018 for $500 on Carousell while Chen bought his 357g drone online in June last year. Chen then contacted Tay to meet up and asked Tay to teach him how to fly his drone.

A few weeks after he bought his drone, Tay also bought a modified antenna to increase the range of his drone transmitter and improve its performance.

Chen suggested to Tay to meet at the open field near 128C Punggol Field Walk, which was just opposite Chen’s home. Chen operated his drone using a remote control and flew the device for about five to six minutes up to about two storeys high.

Meanwhile, Tay flew his drone for 11 minutes up to 431m in altitude for a distance of 1.4km for one flight. According to his flight logs, he also flew the device for one minute up to 5m high and 5m far.

Shortly after the drones started flying, their batteries were drained. Tay was about to replace the battery in his drone and continue flying it when the RSAF officer arrived.

For each of his proceeded charges, Tay could have been fined up to $20,000.

Chen was earlier fined $2,000.

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