CAAS: More foreigners caught for drone violations
More foreign visitors nabbed on drone violations since regulations kicked in
The drone soars, pulling away from the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Skypark beneath.
In the background, Gardens by the Bay sprawls, with milling visitors mere specks.
This was one of many aerial shots by a drone camera featured in a YouTube video uploaded by a user called DroneFanatic in November.
A check by The New Paper found at least 15 travelogues uploaded on social media or video-streaming websites featuring footage taken from what is obviously above the permitted height limit of 61m (200ft) drone altitude limit set by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).
A Class 2 activity permit is needed to fly drones above that limit for recreation or research.
On Tuesday, the CAAS said that 12 visitors were caught between April last year and March this year. In comparison, only three were caught over the same period between 2016 and last year.
The Straits Times reported in December 2016 that the CAAS found 25 violations since June 2015, when current regulations kicked in.
CAAS told TNP only three foreign visitors have been issued permits between June 2015 and end-March this year.
At 207m tall, MBS, which is featured in some of these videos, is more than three times the 61m drone altitude limit.
An MBS spokesman said the integrated resort generally disallows flying drones on its entire property for safety reasons .
"If we spot unapproved flying of drones... we will not hesitate to intervene and seek assistance from the authorities," the spokesman added.
Mr Loo Chee Beng, CAAS' director of air navigation services policy, told TNP: "CAAS is aware of the trend of tourists using their unmanned aircraft to document their trips."
He attributed the increase in numbers of visitors caught for illegal drone flying to stepped-up patrolling and enforcement.
He also said that patrols are conducted in known hotspots and areas within 5km of an aerodrome, where a Class 2 permit is also required. The CAAS declined to specify where these hotspots were.
Mr Loo added that information on drone regulations, permits and permissible flying areas is on the CAAS website.
The group director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Dr Nigel Taylor, told TNP that the Gardens, which prohibits drone flying, encounters unwitting drone operators about once or twice a month.
Said Dr Taylor: "These are usually for wedding photoshoots and recreational filming and carried out at the Bandstand, Eco Lake and Shaw Symphony Foundation Lawn.
"Upon being approached and advised, visitors are cooperative and cease their activity."
Drones have also been prohibited in two special event areas during this week's Trump-Kim summit.
Assistant Professor Chen Siyuan, from the Singapore Management University School of Law, said setting and enforcing a higher height limit could still ensure safety.
Said Prof Chen: "(The current limit) was chosen for historical rather than modern reasons - that was the limit applied to kites.
"Most users are sensible and responsible, and many supposed incidents have been proven to be fake or exaggerated news."
Foreign visitors subject to local drone regulations
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said all drone activities, including those by foreign visitors, fall under its care.
This means tourists need to apply for an activity permit should their drone flights require it.
Activity permits are split into two classes.
Class 1 permits are issued for drone activities that are not for recreation or research, or if the drone is over 7kg in total weight.
Class 2 permits are issued for recreation or research using drones when flying higher than about 61m (200 feet), within 5km of an aerodrome, or within any restricted, danger or protected areas.
The aviation authority has rejected Class 2 applications from foreign visitors for activities that actually require a Class 1 permit.
Overall, it received 1,953 activity permit applications between April last year and end-March this year.
This is an increase of about 70 per cent from the same period between 2016 and last year, which saw 1,137 applications.
Approval rates increased from about 79 per cent to 86 per cent between both periods.
Most activity permits (72 per cent) the CAAS issued from June 2015 till end-March this year were for aerial photos and videos.
It is the one-stop agency for all applications, coordinating evaluation by other relevant agencies, such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, in deciding whether to issue a permit.
However, drone operators are still advised to seek permission from the management of private properties for any flights over their premises. - TAY HONG YI