Man pleads guilty to charge of flying drone near Paya Lebar Air Base

SINGAPORE – A 37-year-old man has pleaded guilty to flying a drone near Paya Lebar Air Base without the proper permits.

Ed Chen Junyuan, appeared in court on Friday (Oct 25) charged with piloting the drone within 5km of the air base.

Chen and a friend, Tay Miow Seng, 40, were separately charged in July this year under the Air Navigation Order.

The duo were the first to be charged for unlawfully flying a drone in Singapore.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Dwayne Lum urged the court during the sentencing hearing for Chen not to be let off with “a slap on the wrist”, as he was piloting the drone without the required permit, and with prior knowledge that an airbase was nearby.

DPP Lum said that the sentence should be in the public interest, taking into consideration the importance of deterrence.

“Unregulated operation of drones, especially within close proximity to airbases, poses serious consequences for aircraft safety,” DPP Lum said.

“In addition, unregulated drone operation also poses a safety risk especially if done in an irresponsible fashion, endangering not just aircraft but persons and property,” DPP Lum added.

Defence lawyer Josephus Tan, however, pleaded for the court to impose a fine of between $500 and $1,000. The prosecution has asked for a $3,000 fine.

Mr Tan argued that Chen was operating a drone without electronic “geofencing” technology, which allows for clear demarcation of no-fly zones. The lawyer said that without this technology, Chen would not have been likely to know how close, exactly, he was to the airbase.

Mr Tan also argued that Chen only flew the drone at a height of 6m, around two storeys on a HDB block, and this could not have posed any danger to the air traffic control or military aircraft.

“There was no actual harm whatsoever and minimal potential harm. (Chen’s) case is therefore wholly unlike the two drone incursions at Changi Airport in June 2019, whereby runway operations and flights were indeed delayed,” he said.

Chen faces a fine of up to $20,000.

The hearing has been adjourned to Nov 4.

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