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One-north to be designated as Singapore's first drone estate

[SINGAPORE] Expect to see more drones flying around one-north, a research and development hub in Buona Vista which will be designated as Singapore's first drone estate.

The aim is to provide companies and research institutions with an urban environment for test-bedding innovative unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

This will help the growth of high-tech companies with unmanned aircraft capabilities and spur commercial partnerships, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Monday. He announced the initiative at the opening of the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit at Pan Pacific Hotel.

The event was held on the sidelines of the biennial Singapore Airshow and was attended by civil aviation and airline chiefs, as well as other industry bigwigs, including Mr Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu, president of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and Mr Alexandre de Juniac, director-general and chief executive of the International Air Transport Association.

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Mr Khaw said: "Singapore has limited airspace and hence, our risk tolerance is low when it comes to UAS operations. Nonetheless, we do not want to miss out on the benefits of UAS. The Government is actively facilitating the use of UAS by both the private and the public sectors."

The aviation industry is also adjusting to new aircraft technologies, apart from unmanned aircraft, that allow airlines to fly farther, by-passing traditional hubs.

To deal with such "disruptions", air hubs and airlines will need new strategies and new business models, and will need to open new routes to adapt to these new aircraft, Mr Khaw said. And as regulators, "we should enable them to respond nimbly to market opportunities", he added.

The key is to strengthen the foundations of aviation, including ensuring a high level of safety and security, he said.

A conducive business environment is also important.

If airlines can be competitive and flexible to expand their operations, passengers can enjoy a wide range of flight options, and airports will benefit from increased traffic, which would, in turn, benefit the wider economy and the people, Mr Khaw said.

It is also important for airports to increase capacity - both on the ground and in the air - ahead of time to cater to growing air traffic, he said.

Asean's 10 member countries have adopted a masterplan to work together to enhance the region's air traffic management capabilities so that more flights can be handled efficiently and safely.

Ultimately, a pool of competent aviation professionals is the most important factor to ensure that the aviation sector can continue to grow and cope with disruptions that may occur, said Mr Khaw.

Singapore is a strong believer and supporter of this initiative, he added, as he announced the launch of a new scheme.

Under a new Singapore-ICAO Programme for Young Aviation Professionals, 40 scholarships and 600 fellowships will be offered to young aviation professionals over the next five years.

In total, the programme will provide $6 million in training assistance.

Mr Khaw said: "In the early years of nation building, Singapore benefited from the assistance and training offered by many countries. In turn, we are happy to do our part to help attract young aviation professionals to help build their aviation industry in their respective countries. This will be good for the global aviation industry and the safety of all air travellers."

THE STRAITS TIMES

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