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Singapore

Judge fines man who flew drone illegally and caused diversion of RSAF aircraft

Judge fines man who flew drone illegally and caused diversion of RSAF aircraft

File photo of the State Courts in Singapore. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: A man was fined S$51,000 on Thursday (Apr 14) for illegally flying a drone into the flight path of a Tengah Air Base runway, causing two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) aircraft to be diverted.

Drone enthusiast Jason Ng Yok Sen, 43, was operating his DJI Mavic 2 Zoom from Taman Jurong Park on Sep 8, 2020 when the incident happened.

The presence of the drone, which was detected by the aeroscope at Tengah Air Base, also led RSAF to close the affected runway for half an hour.

District Judge Lorraine Ho said that the intentions of the drone operator were unknown at that point in time.

This necessitated a swift response from RSAF to ensure defence capabilities were not compromised, taking up the military's time and resources, she said.

The sentence imposed was a "cautionary note" to all drone operators in Singapore, including hobbyists, said the judge.

Drone operators should ensure that they are aware of and comply with the rules and regulations for drone flying in Singapore or face dire consequences, she said.

FIRST SUCH CASE

According to the prosecution, Ng's case appears to be the first case of illegal drone operation in Singapore where there was a closure of a runway and the diversion of aircraft intending to land there.

During the incident, Ng flew his drone for 22 minutes covering a distance of about 930m around Corporation Road.

The drone hit a maximum altitude of 134m above mean sea level during the flight, which put it directly within the flight path of a Tengah Air Base runway.

The two diverted RSAF aircraft were scheduled to land at the runway within the next hour after the drone was detected.

Ng pleaded guilty on Tuesday to three counts of air navigation offences, with another 14 charges considered for sentencing.

Aside from the Sep 8, 2020 incident, he also flew the drone without a permit on 11 occasions between May and October 2020.

The drone was detected around Chia Ping Road, Chin Bee Road, Joo Yee Road, Yang Ho Road and Corporation Road at an altitude exceeding 60m.

It flew close to buildings and over people and vehicles, putting them at risk of being hit should the drone fall from height due to malfunction or pilot error, the prosecution earlier said.

Calculations showed that if Ng had lost control of the drone, it would "easily" have caused death or serious injury, with little time for pedestrians or vehicles to get out of harm's way given the altitudes at which it was flying, according to the prosecution.

For flying a drone in a manner likely to endanger the safety of any person, aircraft or property, Ng could have been jailed up to five years, fined up to S$100,000 or both.

Those who fly a drone without the required Class 2 activity permit can be jailed up to two years and fined up to S$50,000, with heavier penalties for repeat offenders.

Source: CNA/dv(aj)

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