SINGAPORE: A 21-year-old man who flew a drone in a special event area during the National Day Parade (NDP) last year pleaded guilty on Tuesday (Jan 7), in the first prosecution involving the possession of a prohibited item in a special event area.
Tan Jin Kang, who was not represented, asked the court for leniency, saying that it was the first time he had ever flown a drone.
He said he had chosen National Day for his debut flight as he wanted to capture the fireworks and did not realise it was an offence to fly or possess an unmanned aerial vehicle in a special event area.
He also said that he had not noticed signs stating that such acts were prohibited, as they were in red and “camouflaged” by many people who were also dressed in red that day.
The court heard that Tan went to Raffles Avenue, near the Singapore Flyer, on the evening of Aug 9 last year.
He brought his 905g drone and took it on a test flight, flying it for up to 10.8m for about 45 seconds in the special event area demarcated for the NDP.
The NDP last year was held at the Padang and declared an enhanced security special event, during which police imposed security restrictions in the area around the Padang, including Raffles Avenue.
A police officer on roving patrol for National Day was notified that a drone had been spotted around the Singapore Flyer area, and tracked it down.
He saw Tan operating the device with a controller, and asked for his particulars.
Checks revealed that the drone had a camera attached, but it was not in use at that point as Tan intended to use it only for the fireworks later that night.
At the time, there were numerous signboards in the vicinity stating that flying or possessing an unmanned aerial vehicle was not allowed, with two signs placed near where Tan had operated his drone, court documents show.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Benedict Teong said this was the first prosecution involving the possession of a prohibited item in a special event area.
Mr Teong asked for a fine of at least S$4,000, saying it was "fortuitous that he was stopped in time by police".
Tan, who is completing his national service, pleaded for leniency.
"Your honour I would like to plead for leniency. I did not know there was this kind of law implemented on drone flying," said Tan.
District Judge Christopher Goh responded by saying that there were signs around him indicating that such activities were prohibited.
A photo tendered to the court showed Tan on a bridge with a sign nearby.
Tan told the court that he was walking away from the sign and would not have seen it.
MANY PEOPLE DRESSED IN RED, SIGNS WERE CAMOUFLAGED
"The signages were mainly red in colour and roughly around the same height around my eye ... which could've been camouflaged as most people gathering around the area were crowding the signs and also wearing red, due to it being National Day," Tan said.
Tan added that he wanted to use the drone to capture the fireworks display during the celebrations.
The prosecutor pointed out that Tan ought to have known that it was an offence to fly or even possess a drone in the special event area.
The judge adjourned sentencing to Feb 18.
The penalties for possessing a prohibited item in a special event area are a maximum jail term of a year, a S$20,000 fine, or both.