Man charged with repeatedly flying drone near MINDEF protected base, taking photos with it

Man charged with repeatedly flying drone near MINDEF protected base, taking photos with it

A Chinese-made DJI Mavic Zoom drone flies during a product launch in New York in 2018.
A Chinese-made DJI Mavic Zoom drone flies during a product launch in New York in 2018. (Photo: AFP/Drew Angerer)

SINGAPORE: A man is accused of flying a drone over a protected Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) base seven times and taking pictures of the protected Gombak Base on several of these occasions.

Neo Wei Ren, 35, was charged on Tuesday (Jun 9) with 16 counts under the Air Navigation Act and Air Navigation Order, including taking photos of a protected area with his drone, flying a drone without the required permit and flying a drone over a protected area.

According to charge sheets, Neo first flew a DJI Mavic Pro over Gombak Base at about 12.35pm on May 18 lat year. He is accused of flying it up to 120m above mean sea level over Gombak Base.

He flew the drone again over the base on May 26 and Jun 30 last year, court documents allege.

However, at 5pm on Aug 11 last year, he allegedly flew the drone from 31 Cashew Crescent over Gombak Base, this time taking a photograph of the protected base with the device.

He allegedly did this again on Aug 25, Oct 6 and Oct 13 last year, taking photos of the base each time.

The police said in a statement on Monday that a report was lodged on Oct 13, 2019, after an unmanned aircraft was seen flying in the immediate vicinity of the MINDEF Gombak Base.

Neo was identified and investigations revealed that he had operated the drone six other times between May and October 2019, at the same location without a permit.

Neo will return to court to plead guilty on Jul 1. He faces penalties of up to two years' jail and fines of up to S$50,000 if convicted of flying a drone over a protected area.

Another man, 66-year-old Lee Soon Tee, was charged with a single count of flying a 734g drone without a permit at an open field in Tampines Industrial Avenue 2, within 5km of an aerodome.

Lee said he thought he did not need to register his drone or obtain a permit as the box it came in indicated that the drone weighed less than 250g. He said he bought the drone as a toy as he is about to retire and wants to find a hobby.

He said he had operated the drone for the first time for about two minutes before the wind blew it away, and said the height he flew it at was "not high enough to cause any interference with aircraft operation".

He will return to court on Jun 30.

The police said in their statement on Monday that they "will not condone the flying of an unmanned aircraft in an unsafe and irresponsible manner", as this poses a risk to aviation as well as public safety and security.

Drone flyers should refer to the OneMap.sg website or app to check the areas where flying drones are not allowed unless permits are granted.

"Users are also reminded that recreational flying of unmanned aircraft outdoors during this safe reopening phase is not allowed," said the police. "Any unmanned aircraft with a total weight of above 250g must be registered before it can be operated in Singapore."

Source: CNA/ll(nc)

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