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Construction company is the first to be punished for operating a drone outdoors without permit

[SINGAPORE] The Singapore branch of construction company LT Sambo was fined S$9,000 on Monday (July 8) for operating a drone outdoors without a proper permit, the first ever conviction and sentencing under the law.

The company, which admitted to flying the drone on Nov 17, 2017, had pleaded guilty earlier to an offence under the Air Navigation Order.

The court heard that LT Sambo had operated the small unmanned aircraft outdoors "in the course of business" without a Class 1 activity permit.

The drone was identified as a DJI Phantom 4, weighing 1.38kg.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) states on its website that a Class 1 activity permit is needed for activities involving an unmanned aircraft that is "not recreational or research in nature".

These include competitive races held by private organisers and businesses providing aerial surveying or photography services.

A Class 1 activity permit is not valid without an unmanned aircraft operator permit which is also granted by CAAS.

The operator permit is granted to applicants if they are able to ensure the safe operation of the drones.

For recreational and research purposes, permits are not required for drones 7kg and below, including payload, if they are flown outside prohibited areas, and at an altitude not exceeding 200 feet above mean sea level.

The CAAS says on its website that given Singapore's busy airspace and densely populated urban environment, the flying of an unmanned aircraft must be carried out in a "safe and responsible manner".

If not carried out properly, it says the operation of an unmanned aircraft may pose a risk to aviation and public safety.

Last week, two men were taken to court after they allegedly operated drones for recreational purposes within 5km of Paya Lebar Air Base without a valid Class 2 activity permit.

Ed Chen Junyuan, 37 and Tay Miow Seng, 40, were each charged with one count of an offence under the Air Navigation Order.

The CAAS said they were the first to be charged with the unauthorised operation of a small unmanned aircraft in an area close to an aerodrome.

The men, who are accused of flying the drones at an open field near Block 128C Punggol Field at around 9pm on June 26, will be back in court on Aug 2.

First-time offenders can be fined up to S$20,000.

Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 months and fined up to S$40,000.

THE STRAITS TIMES