Enhancing the Regulatory and Permit Framework for Safe and Responsible Unmanned Aircraft Use in Singapore
Laws aim to ensure aviation safety, public safety and security amid increasing unmanned aircraft’s popularity
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) are enhancing the regulatory and permit framework for unmanned aircraft operations in Singapore to facilitate their usage while mitigating the associated aviation safety, public safety and security risks. The enhancements to the regulatory and permit framework are expected to take effect on 1 June 2015 after the necessary legislative processes are completed.
Uses of unmanned aircraft and associated risks
The use of unmanned aircraft1, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, is becoming increasingly popular, including in Singapore. Today, unmanned aircraft are used for a range of purposes, such as the delivery of goods, aerial filming and photography, search and rescue, and inspection of infrastructure and facilities.
If not carried out properly, the operation of unmanned aircraft may pose a risk to aviation safety, public safety and security. Despite the safety features in some unmanned aircraft, mechanical malfunction, loss of control link or human error could cause operators to lose control of the aircraft in flight. Payloads carried by unmanned aircraft could be accidentally released. Unmanned aircraft crashing or discharging its payload could cause injury to persons or even death and damage to property. Unmanned aircraft could also be flown over, used to take photographs of or even employed to attack security-sensitive locations.
Amendments to the regulatory and permit framework to enhance safety and security for certain unmanned aircraft operations
The Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Bill has been introduced for First Reading in Parliament on 13 April 2015. The Bill proposes amendments to the Air Navigation Act (ANA) and Public Order Act (POA) for the management of public safety and security risks arising from the operations of unmanned aircraft. The Air Navigation Order (ANO), a subsidiary legislation of the ANA, is also being amended to enhance the aviation and public safety regime for unmanned aircraft operations.
With the amendments, the enhanced regulatory framework will:
- Prohibit the carriage of dangerous materials by unmanned aircraft (among others, weapons, and any bio-chemical or radioactive material);
- Prohibit the discharge of any substance from unmanned aircraft without a permit;
- Require operators to obtain a permit to fly or operate an unmanned aircraft that weighs more than 7kg in total weight (i.e. weight of laden aircraft) and for certain types of operation;
- Provide for the gazetting of security-sensitive locations as “protected areas,” where overflying by unmanned aircraft or taking of photographs from unmanned aircraft are prohibited without a permit;
- Prohibit the overflight of unmanned aircraft over “special event areas” declared for the venues of major events without a permit (for example, certain venues of the Southeast Asian Games 2015); and
- Require operators to obtain a permit to fly or operate an unmanned aircraft within 5km of an aerodrome regardless of height, or above 200 feet beyond 5km of an aerodrome, or within a restricted or danger area.
The laws would also include penalties for offences involving unmanned aircraft. (Please see Annex A for the circumstances when a permit is required for the operation of an unmanned aircraft.)
To facilitate applications for any of the permits, CAAS will serve as a “one-stop shop” for the submission of permit applications. By 1 June 2015, applicants will be able to submit their applications (including supporting documents) for all permits required through CAAS’ online permit application system. CAAS will issue to the applicants all the permits granted in a package, and through the same online system. CAAS will give more details of the permit application system in due course.
Promoting safe and responsible operation of unmanned aircraft for recreational and private use (which does not require permits)
Given Singapore’s busy airspace and densely populated urban environment, the flying of unmanned aircraft for recreational and private uses that does not require permits also needs to be carried out in a responsible manner. Operators should ensure that they are able to operate unmanned aircraft safely, exercising due care and concern for others. CAAS has developed an advisory, which contains guidelines for such activities (see Annex B).
The enhancements to the regulatory and permit framework and the guidelines are interim steps to address immediate safety and security issues, pending the Government’s ongoing study of an appropriate framework to facilitate and promote the use of unmanned aircraft for public and commercial purposes, and which will also be able to adequately address safety, security and privacy concerns. The Ministry of Transport has been leading an inter-agency committee, which includes CAAS and SPF as members, in this effort.
Annex A: Permit Regime for Unmanned Aircraft Operations under the Enhanced Regulatory Framework
Annex B: Fly it Safe!Advisory on the Safe and Responsible Operation of Unmanned Aircraft (For Recreational and Private Uses Only)
1 Unmanned aircraft vary in size, from palm-sized remotely controlled model aircraft to those as big as military drones, and range in weight from as light as 100g to 100kg.