Lifestyle

Drone Play Play: What You Should Know Before Flying Your Drone In S'pore

Unauthorised drone activity has recently been quite the bane to airlines and airport staff at Changi Airport.

Alongside poor weather conditions, drones flying too close to the airport were the main reason why 15 flight departures and 3 arrivals were delayed on 24 June 2019.

Seven other flights also had to be diverted that day.

This incident comes less than a week after Changi Airport previously had to suspend one entire runway for short periods of time between 11pm, 18 June and 9am, 19 June, due to drone sightings in the vicinity.

This disruption affected a total of 38 flights.

Beyond simply causing a lot of frustration, stress and inconvenience for flight crew and passengers, more severely, flying drones close to airports also puts all those on board in danger of collisions that can cause severe damage to planes.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is currently undertaking investigations together with Changi Airport Group, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Singapore Police Force (SPF) to identify the people who operated the drones in question.

CAAS also issued a statement to remind that public that they “will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those who contravene regulations”.

Offenders can be fined up to $20,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both.

Where Can You Fly A Drone In S’pore?

Drones have soared in popularity among gadget enthusiasts, and they’re a great tool that unlocks once unreachable opportunities in aerial photography and videography.

But as we say (often when Singaporeans critique fellow Singaporeans), inconsiderate behaviour like this, is why “we can’t have good things”.

If you own a drone, the responsible thing to do is to know where you’re permitted to fly it so you won’t be putting others in danger.

Besides, if you’ve already invested nothing short of a thousand dollars on your fancy drone, you probably wouldn’t want to risk facing a huge penalty or even jail time.

The first thing you need to know is whether you’ll need a permit.

The CAAS’ rules state that drones can be flown for recreational and educational purposes if they don’t exceed 7kg including payload (eg. cameras), and only go up to 200 feet above mean sea level (AMSL).

You should also be sure to avoid any locations that are listed under restricted, prohibited, or protected areas, and areas within 5km of an airport or airbase.

Under these conditions, you’ll be able to fly your drone easy breezy without need for a permit.

However, if you plan to fly higher 200 feet AMSL or within any restricted locations (including areas within 5km of an airport or airbase), you will need a Class 2 Activity Permit, and it’ll cost you $60 to apply for each activity.

It is an offence to operate drones of more than 7kg, flying above 200 feet ASML, or within restricted areas without a permit.

This applies even if you’re simply using drones to conduct an educational course, or to take photos and videos for your personal collection.

For those who intend to fly drones of above 7kg, or for non-recreational and non-research purposes, they’re required to get an Operator Permit and Class 1 Activity Permit, regardless of where and how high they fly.

This includes, for example, businesses that want to use drones to provide photography services, take photos of their events for internal use, or to conduct aerial surveying.

Competitive drone races fall outside of recreational purposes too.

An Operator Permit starts with a fee of $600 for the first type of drone, with a further cost of $400 for each additional type or model of drone, while a Class 1 Activity Permit will cost $75 for each activity.

Take note of the restricted areas for drone activity.

When it comes to area limitations for drone activity, don’t gloss over them too hastily or make the mistake to assume you’re not in a restricted area.

More parts of Singapore are marked as restricted or protected than you may think.

drone flying in singapore map restricted areas
CAAS map of area limitations for drone flying

A look at CAAS’ map immediately shows that almost all of Singapore’s east and north regions are off-limits, mostly due to the proximity to Changi Airport, Paya Lebar Airbase and Seletar Airbase in these parts.

Some areas that are mostly clear from restrictions include Bukit Timah, Marina South, West Coast and Sentosa, so you may want to set your sights in those locations.

To get a more in-depth view, you can also check flywhere.sg, which lets you toggle the different types of area limitations.

where can you fly a drone in singapore flywhere.sg restricted areas
Screenshot from flywhere.sg

While drones are allowed in most parks managed by National Parks Board (NParks), this map highlights a few parks that bear ‘no flying’ signs, such as MacRitchie Reservoir.

It also provides updates on temporarily restricted areas, such as parts of Singapore that will be blocked off for the upcoming National Day Parade 2019.

To avoid running afoul of the law while you enjoy your drone-related hobbies, make sure you take note of these rules and regulations.

Find out more at CAAS’ website here.

Featured Image Credit: Tech Coffee House

 

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