SINGAPORE: The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) issued a joint statement on Monday (Nov 20) announcing that cross-border unmanned aircraft (UA) flights without a cross-border permit are now prohibited in Singapore. A new cross-border permit framework for unmanned aircraft has been introduced to safeguard public safety and security.

Unmanned aircraft can be flown or operated without someone on board to operate it. They include drones, radio-controlled aircraft, and remote-controlled kites. The statement noted that technological advancements over the past few years have improved unmanned aircraft’s capabilities, flight distance, and endurance. However, these flights may be dangerous to public safety and security.

“Globally, we have seen cases of UAs disrupting airport operations, as well as being used for criminal activities, such as for smuggling, and to conduct terror attacks. In Singapore, we witnessed the use of UA for cross-border drug smuggling in 2020,” the two agencies said in the statement.

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Therefore, from Tuesday (Nov 21) onward, a new framework for cross-border unmanned aircraft operations will be implemented in Singapore. It states that cross-border unmanned aircraft flights are prohibited except when the CAAS gives those flights a relevant cross-border permit.

The statement noted that the new framework for cross-border unmanned aircraft operations supplements the framework introduced in 2015.

“Any UA operator found operating a UA into or out of Singapore illegally will be liable to prosecution by the authorities. The offence carries a penalty of a fine of up to S$50,000, an imprisonment term of up to two years, or both.

The authorities will also have the powers to take down any unauthorised cross-border UA,” the agencies added.

The incident referred to in the statement is from July 2020, when three Singaporean men and one Singaporean woman were arrested due to suspected drug activities, with methamphetamine (ice), “ecstasy”, and other tablets worth at least S$44,000 seized.

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The police detected unusual unmanned aircraft activity near Kranji Reservoir Park on June 17, 2020, at about 5:45 pm. When police officers from the Woodlands Police Division went to the area, they saw the unmanned aircraft, with a bag attached to it, hovering in the air at Kranji Reservoir Park. Two men were later arrested, and another man and woman were also arrested.

“Preliminary investigations revealed that the bag contained substances suspected to be controlled drugs – about 278g of ‘Ice’.  During a subsequent search by CNB officers of one of the men’s car parked in the vicinity of Kranji Reservoir Park, an assortment of controlled drugs, about 35g of ‘Ice’, 8g of heroin, and 195 ‘Ecstasy’ tablets, were also found.

The two men (initially apprehended) were suspected to have operated the unmanned aircraft from Singapore to import drugs from Malaysia.  The flight data retrieved from one of the suspect’s phone showed that the unmanned aircraft had flown from Kranji to Johor Bahru and back again to Kranji that day.” /TISG     

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