Booking a Flight - Laws for commercial drone use in SG

So the first topic that I would like to talk about is the proper way to conduct commercial drone operations in Singapore.

The skies in Singapore are not the wild west - you can't just take your drone and fly anywhere you want, this is Singapore there are laws and rules here - and we like rules. 

Why? Well in our small island of 700 odd square kilometers, we share airspace with the Air Force, SIA A380s and private Cessnas, and of course add skyscrapers and HDB flats into the mix... well things can get congested up there real quick.

But kudos to the Singapore government, who believe in the potential of commercial drones as an industry worth supporting. Instead of taking the easy way by out-right banning commercial drone use (a la Spain) - The Big G has a set of rules that allow us commercial dronies some air to breathe and fly in.

So how does this affect you if you seek to engage aerial services? Well firstly ensure your operator has an Operator Permit (OP), issued by CAAS (Civil Aviation Authority Singapore).

It is illegal for anyone in Singapore of operate drones for commercial gain/purposes without one, this also applies to foreign operators.

What is this OP Permit?

The OP, or operator permit, is issued after safety assessments, pilot assessments and aircraft assessments and many many other assessments carried out by CAAS and other agencies, to ensure that we are fit-to-fly. It  has to be renewed annually.

It consists of a lots of forms - of course - but thankfully, e-forms, which makes the process easier.

Flying without a proper OP, the operator can be liable to maximum $20,000 fine and/or maximum 12 months jail time.

Wah Seh!

Yup, I hear you, this does not apply to hobbyist pilots though - so go ahead and fly free hobbyist! *

*no not really, there are rules for hobbyist too, another article another day.

Why so strict on commercial operators you may ask? Well national security is one of the issues - and a big one. With army camps and key installations and hidden Gundam bases around, the government can be worried that you might become an unwitting spy, hired by foreign entities to photograph things you should not photograph. 


Gundam Base...

Gundam Base...

The Activity Permit

Done! We have an OP, fly liao!

Wait! Not so fast, did you notice the Public Safety portion of the (PUBLIC SAFETY AND SECURITY) ACT 2015 link I shared above?

While the OP largely covers the security portion. Next comes the Activity Permit (AP), which deals more with the specific location and risks to the public at that location.

Activity permits are one-time applications for a specific project: ie. aerial photography project of your company's nice new factory in Tuas (Wah Tuas, so far).

APs have to be applied for the individual project. We have to inform CAAS of flight paths, flight area and other nitty gritty details. CAAS will then approve/reject our drone flights based on the risk we might place to the public and other considerations (this probably deserves another blog post). We can outline what we do do mitigate those risks to reassure CAAS.

Of course, again, it is illegal to commercially operate without one.

Things that will be taken into consideration are - Where are you flying? What will you be flying over? What is your intent? Will you be releasing anything from the drone? Who has hired you?

So how does this affect you? The potential aerial photography/video customer?

1. Firstly, ensure your vendor has a valid OP permit.

That's us - Shameless Plug

That's us - Shameless Plug

2. If you do wish to engage our services, plan early. The date of flight has to be submitted to CAAS 10 working days before, for CAAS and us to comfortably process the application.

3. Prepare a memo or email, that state that you have hired us for a project - to verify that you are not a dirty spy.

4. Lastly, if you are unlucky enough that your Tuas factory is located beside Tuas Gundam base or something, prepare for some delays receiving the pictures (perhaps a week or two). As the police might request we send our pictures for security vetting, but that is usually rare and will not affect the majority of locations around Singapore.

Hope that was informative! The next post will be on aerodromes - the magic 5km rule of Singapore airports, and how it affect drone companies and the customer.