SINGAPORE: A man was fined S$2,000 on Monday (Nov 4) for flying a drone near an airbase without a permit in the first sentencing for such an offence.
Ed Chen Junyuan, 37, had pleaded guilty to one charge of flying a small unmanned aircraft within 5km of Paya Lebar Air Base under the Air Navigation Order.
Chen had bought a 0.36kg DBPOWER FPB drone online in June and gone to an open field near 128C Punggol Field Walk opposite Chen's home on the night of Jun 26 to fly it with his friend and co-accused Tay Miow Seng.
Chen flew his drone for about five to six minutes, up to two storeys high, while Tay flew his own device.
One of the drones was sighted by the Paya Lebar Air Base Aeroscope system, and an off-duty Republic of Singapore Air Force officer received a subsequent alert and drove to where the two men were flying the drones.
The men were later arrested.
The prosecution and defence had differed in the amounts of the fine asked for, with the former asking for S$3,000 and defence counsel Josephus Tan asking for a figure between S$500 and S$1,000.
The prosecutor had pointed out the serious consequences for aircraft safety and highlighted how Chen had operated his drone despite the news publishing reminders for drone users to check before they operate their devices.
The defence argued that no actual harm was caused and that the drone had flown for only five to six minutes, with no indication of its speed.
For flying the drone within 5km of an airbase without a relevant permit, Chen could have been fined up to S$20,000.
The maximum fine doubles to S$40,000 for subsequent offences, and repeat offenders can also be jailed for up to 15 months.
Chen's co-accused Tay has been charged with several offences including flying a 0.43kg DJI drone in a dangerous manner up to 431m high, more than six times the 64m limit.
He is set to return to court for a further mention of his case on Nov 22.