Regulatory framework for commercial drones

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Transport in respect of current regulations governing unmanned aerial vehicles (also known as drones or unmanned airships) in Singapore’s airspace (a) whether there are any restrictions on the size or engine power of the drones; (b) whether there are any requirements for individuals to be certified before operating drones and, if so, what are these certifications for; (c) whether the Government sees potential in the commercial drone industry in Singapore; and (d) whether there are plans to provide a clearer regulatory framework so as to accommodate a possible growth in this industry.

There is a growing interest in commercial drones, where there are plans for them to be used for package deliveries, filming movies and commercials, and even pizza delivery. However in some countries, aviation regulations severely restrict the use of commercial drones, which could constrain the growth of the industry. I asked the Minister for Transport this parliamentary question on 9 July 2014, so that the public can better understand how Singapore’s regulatory framework will evolve to meet industry needs and technological advancements.

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Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Transport in respect of current regulations governing unmanned aerial vehicles (also known as drones or unmanned airships) in Singapore’s airspace (a) whether there are any restrictions on the size or engine power of the drones; (b) whether there are any requirements for individuals to be certified before operating drones and, if so, what are these certifications for; (c) whether the Government sees potential in the commercial drone industry in Singapore; and (d) whether there are plans to provide a clearer regulatory framework so as to accommodate a possible growth in this industry.

Mr Lui Tuck Yew: The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has embarked on the development of international standards to regulate unmanned aircraft operations, particularly in airspace used by manned aircraft. The work covers areas such as certification of the unmanned aircraft system (widely known as UAS), competency requirements of the UAS operator/pilot, and guidance on its operations. Singapore, represented by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), is a member of the ICAO Panel tasked with developing such standards.

In Singapore, there is growing public interest in civilian unmanned aircraft activities for recreation and commercial purposes such as aerial filming. There are also several companies in Singapore seeking to grow the commercial UAS industry here.

The Singapore Air Navigation Order (ANO) currently applies to the operation of unmanned aircraft that weighs not more than 7 kg without its fuel and that is capable of being flown without a pilot. To preserve the safety of manned aircraft operations, the ANO disallows the flying of such unmanned aircraft within 5 km of an aerodrome, or at an altitude higher than 200 ft above mean sea level when outside 5 km of an aerodrome, unless a permit has been obtained from CAAS.

The current regulations do not adequately address unmanned aircraft heavier than 7 kg, to which regulations for manned aircraft would apply. In parallel with the development of international standards by ICAO, CAAS is reviewing the regulatory framework for the various types of unmanned aircraft and their operations in Singapore. This review, which is being done in collaboration with other stakeholders, takes into account the safety and security risks posed by unmanned aircraft activities, particularly near aerodromes, built up areas and critical/sensitive installations. The review will provide the necessary regulatory oversight of UAS activities while allowing for the growth of the industry. Operating guidelines to advise operators on the safe conduct of UAS activities are also being developed. The proposed regulatory framework will be rolled out for public consultation in the coming months.

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Source: Singapore Parliament Reports (Hansard)