Wednesday, 25 Nov 2020

Man fined $16,000 after flying drone near Gombak Base multiple times

SINGAPORE – Technical manager Neo Wei Ren, 35, was aware that military camps are protected areas and had reason to believe that he was flying his drone over one of them, a district court heard on Wednesday (Nov 4).

Despite this, he repeatedly flew the device over Upper Bukit Timah Road near Gombak Base last year and shot video footage.

He was fined $16,000 after pleading guilty to two counts each for offences under the Air Navigation Act and Air Navigation Order.

Twelve other charges for similar offences were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The court was told that the Singaporean bought the drone in 2018 and operated it once a week at his home.

The location of his home was not revealed.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Chew Xin Ying said: “The accused knew that there were protected areas over which he was prohibited from operating the drone.

“In any event, prohibited areas (no-fly zones) were stated on the CAAS (Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore) website, which the accused had accessed.”

The court heard that he could see the altitude the drone was flying through an application on his mobile phone.

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He could also use the application for a live view from the device’s camera.

The DPP said that Neo started flying the drone near Gombak Base in May last year.

On Oct 6 last year, he operated it for the purpose of recreation over a stretch of road along Upper Bukit Timah Road near Gombak Base.

He also unlawfully flew it at the maximum altitude of 99m (about 325ft) even though he did not have a proper permit to operate it beyond 200ft.

He committed similar offences a week later, the court heard. An eyewitness spotted the device and alerted the police.

The DPP pressed for a fine of $18,000 on Wednesday and told District Judge Adam Nakhoda: “There is the need to prevent public disclosure and knowledge of security-sensitive matters.

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“Other than military bases and camps, examples of protected areas under… the Air Navigation Act include the Istana, the Parliament House and the Supreme Court.”

For flying a drone over a protected area, an offender can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $50,000.

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