drone pilot ordered to pay $37,000 fine for endangering military aircraft

A Singaporean man has been slapped with a $37,000 fine (S$51,000) for flying a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom drone unlawfully in September 2020. If he’s unable to pay the fine, the drone pilot will face a jail time of 100 days.

This is the first time a Singapore court has dealt such a large fine for illegal drone operations. And that’s because the offense committed by Jason Ng Yok Sen is unprecedented for the country.

On Sept 8, 2020, Ng was flying his drone directly within the flight path of a runway at Tengah – a military airbase of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

This runway was scheduled to use for landing two military aircraft with four personnel within the next hour. However, a DJI AeroScope device installed at the airbase detected the drone, following which a runway closure was ordered and the two inbound RSAF aircraft rerouted.

As Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Ee Hsiun explained in court:

There was a risk of collision, which would have threatened both lives and property. The RSAF had to reroute the two affected aircraft away from the said runway, and impose a 30-minute runway closure due to the accused’s actions.

Before handing down the sentence, District Judge Lorraine Ho also noted that reckless drone operations by Ng had led to a disruption of military operations.

Moreover, it didn’t help that the pilot did not possess a permit for even recreational drone flying. On two separate occasions, Ng had violated Singapore’s Air Navigation Act by operating the drone outdoors at an altitude exceeding 60m above mean sea level without a Class 2 Activity Permit.

Nonetheless, Ng’s lawyer Azri Imran Tan pleaded for a smaller fine for the drone pilot, saying:

It cannot be ignored that there was no actual injury to persons and/or damage to property or aircraft. Jason was a mere drone hobbyist, who while having the intention of flying the drone, had no specific aims or malicious intentions of endangering lives or property, let alone endangering aircraft in flight.


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