Singapore to impose mandatory drone registration, tougher penalties for errant operators: Lam Pin Min

The announcement comes in the wake of two drone intrusion incidents last month, which led to 55 flight delays and eight flight diversions at Changi Airport. (PHOTO: Getty Creative)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Transport (MOT) will be introducing a mandatory registration scheme for all drones operating in Singapore, along with a licensing framework for operators of larger and more capable drones.

Stricter enforcement actions will also be taken against errant drone operators, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min in Parliament on Monday (8 July). The announcement comes in the wake of two drone intrusion incidents last month, which led to 55 flight delays and eight flight diversions at Changi Airport.

“Although the impact of the recent drone intrusions has been moderate, these intrusions can have severe impact on airport operations,” said Lam. He cited the example of at Gatwick Airport in England, where drone sightings in December last year led to a three-day shutdown of the entire airport with approximately 1,000 flights affected.

Most drone users act responsibly

On the registration scheme and licensing framework, Lam said that this would “ensure that drone operators are made aware of their responsibilities and undertake to conduct their activities in a responsible manner”.

While he noted that most drone enthusiasts in Singapore operate their devices responsibly, he said there “will be a few selfish and irresponsible persons who operate in flagrant disregard of the law” – hence the need for tougher enforcement.

Currently, it is an offence to operate an unauthorised drone within 5km of an airport or military base, or to fly one at altitudes of greater than 200 feet. Those caught flouting this law face fines of up to $20,000, a jail term of up to 12 months, or both.

“We are currently looking at increasing the penalty framework for such offences,” he said.

Probe into drone intrusions ongoing

On 18 and 19 June, unauthorised drone flying in the vicinity of Changi Airport caused the delay of 37 scheduled flights and the suspension of one runway. The operations of the affected runway were suspended between 11pm on 18 June and 9am on 19 June for short periods of time while the airport continued to operate with one runway.

In the second such incident in less than a week, unauthorised drone flying and bad weather caused the delay of 18 scheduled flights and seven flights to be diverted at the airport on 24 June.

On Monday, a construction company became the first entity in Singapore to be convicted of operating a drone without a permit. It was fined $9,000 for using the drone illegally while conducting works for an MRT development project along Marine Parade Road.

Last Friday, two men were charged with operating drones without a permit near Paya Lebar Air Base. They flew the drones near a block in Punggol last Wednesday.

With regard to the recent intrusions at Changi Airport, Lam said police investigations into the matter are ongoing. Based on the experiences of other airports, identifying the perpetrators “can be challenging and will take time,” he added.

“Meanwhile, our priority is to detect the drones promptly and prevent them from affecting air traffic and endangering public safety,” said Lam.

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Unauthorised drone flying at Changi Airport caused 37 delayed flights, suspension of 1 runway