Designated area for unmanned aircraft, with amenities and programmes for hobbyists, opens at Pandan Reservoir, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Designated area for unmanned aircraft, with amenities and programmes for hobbyists, opens at Pandan Reservoir

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For the first time, unmanned aircraft enthusiasts will be able to fly their drones without having to apply for an activity permit at Singapore's first and only designated flying area at Pandan Reservoir.

The 16ha dedicated flying area aims to accommodate hobbyists' needs while ensuring public and aviation safety, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said on Sunday (July 17).

"There's a very strong uptick in the activity level in the unmanned aircraft community in Singapore and we see recreational use rising significantly," said Mr Iswaran, noting that the number of registered unmanned aircraft in Singapore has increased.

"A flying area that is aviation-safe and safe for the public is an important consideration for us, especially in a place like Singapore, where our living environment is quite dense. We want to be able to accommodate a diversity of activities but also want to make sure they're done in a safe manner," he said.

Examples of unmanned aircraft include drones, radio-controlled aircraft and remote-controlled kites.

The boundary of the flying area over the Pandan Reservoir waters is marked with yellow buoys and is at least 400m from the nearest housing blocks for privacy reasons.

Users have to take off and land their unmanned aircraft within a grassy area demarcated by yellow standing flags.

Basic amenities such as tables and benches are provided for people to set up their aircraft in a semi-shaded area.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), which opened the flying area on Sunday, said that previously, those who wanted to set up their unmanned aircraft had to do so on the grass patch, which is difficult to do, especially when the ground is wet.

Regular programmes and community workshops to educate unmanned aircraft enthusiasts on safe and responsible flying will be held at the area, said CAAS.

Any unmanned aircraft with a total weight above 250g must be registered with CAAS before users are allowed to operate it.

The flying area came as a key recommendation by the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Advisory Panel set up in 2019, with the aim of reviewing and enhancing Singapore's unmanned aircraft systems regulatory framework.

The operating hours for the flying area at Pandan Reservoir are from 9am to 6pm daily.

Members of the public can join the Pandan Reservoir unmanned aircraft flying area community chat on Telegram, UA Flying Areas, to receive regular updates and important notices about the site.

Mr S Iswaran (centre) and West Coast GRC MP Foo Mee Har (right) at the launch of the Unmanned Aircraft Flying Area at Pandan Reservoir, on July 17, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY


On Sunday, around 25 hobbyists were invited to test the site and provide feedback to the authorities.

Mr Iswaran said the pilot site will be used to assess the response from the unmanned aircraft community and the general acceptance of nearby residents and the public at large.

"As we gain experience and broader acceptance, we can see how this can be extended to the open areas. But it's important that we first get this going, succeeding and meeting the needs and expectations of all stakeholders," he said.

Generally, enthusiasts can fly their unmanned aircraft recreationally in open areas that are within permitted flying areas and outside of strict no-flying zones.

They have to adhere to the rules and regulations, such as applying for an activity permit where necessary, and are not allowed to fly their unmanned aircraft higher than 60m above mean sea level.

Mr Iswaran said that while the number of offences has risen in tandem with the increased interest in recreational unmanned aircraft flying, the bulk of the offences were committed due to a lack of understanding, or awareness, of the rules rather than any malicious intent.

This means it is important to educate users and help them comply with the rules to promote safe and responsible flying.

An advantage of having a designated flying area is the ecosystem it provides, said Mr Iswaran.

"Here, you have the hobbyists, associations, CAAS and other stakeholders involved in the activity and promote a safe flying culture. This will help us better appreciate how it can evolve in Singapore," he said.