A Singaporean man who flew a drone within 5km of Paya Lebar Air Base was fined $9,000 on Thursday, March 5.
Tay Miow Seng, 41, was deemed to have operated the drone in a manner likely to endanger the safety of aircraft, at an open field near Punggol Field Walk at around 9:30pm on June 26, 2019, according to court documents.
He also did not have the required Class 2 activity permit.
Test flight of new drone
That evening, Tay and his friend, Ed Chen Junyuan, together with their wives, had gathered at the field near Chen's home.
Besides test-flying Chen's newly-purchased drone, Tay also flew his own drone.
Both Tay and Chen faced one charge of operating their drones within 5km of Paya Lebar Airbase without a permit, under paragraph 72E(1)(b), of the Air Navigation Order (ANO).
Chen, 37, was fined $2,000 on Nov. 4, for his involvement in the case. Chen had flown his drone no higher than 6 metres, or approximately 2 floors high.
Tay, on the other hand, had flown his device at up to 431 metres, as captured in the flight logs taken from his DJI drone. As pointed out by the prosecution in their submissions, this was over six times the allowed limit of 64 metres.
Because of this, Tay faced a second charge for operating the drone in a manner likely to endanger the safety of aircraft under paragraph 80(5) of the ANO.
According to The Straits Times, a separate charge of flying his drone without a permit within Coney Island on March 26, 2019, was also taken in to consideration in determining Tay's sentence.
As a first-time offender, Tay could have been fined up to S$20,000 for each of his two charges. Repeat offenders could be jailed for up to 15 months and fined up to S$40,000.
The prosecution requested for fines of $6,000 and $10,000 to be imposed on Tay for the first and second charges respectively.
However, Tay's lawyers, Josephus Tan and Cory Wong of Invictus Law Corporation, requested for a fine of $3,000 and $5,000 respectively, citing various mitigating factors such as the absence of any aircraft and human traffic in the area at the time.
The final sentence of $9,000 comprised a $3,500 fine for the first charge, and a $5,500 fine for the second.
Tay and Chen were the first two people to be charged for unauthorised drone flying under paragraph 72E(1)(b), while Tay is the first person to be charged under paragraph 80(5).
Disruptive effects of unauthorised drone flying
The potential disruptive effects of unauthorised drone flying had been demonstrated just days before Tay and Chen were caught.
Between 11pm on June 18 and 9am on June 19, unauthorised drones were spotted in the vicinity of Changi Airport. This caused 37 scheduled flights to be delayed, and one flight was diverted to land at Kuala Lumpur airport instead.
A similar incident on June 24 delayed 18 departure and arrival flights and diverted seven others.
Deterrent fines not uncommon
The approach of using hefty fines to deter potential offenders from creating disamenities to the public can be seen in other areas of law as well: