Drone Laws in Singapore (Registration, Permits, No-Fly Zones)
The usage of drones (also known as an Unmanned Aircraft (UA)) for leisurely activities, such as aerial photography, has been increasing in Singapore in the past few years.
However, the surge of such activity has unfortunately resulted in many unauthorised intrusions of drones into restricted airspaces which jeopardises the safety and security of travellers flying in and out of Singapore.
This article highlights to readers (and in particular, drone enthusiasts) on the steps required to register and operate their drones in Singapore while hovering within the law. The following infographic provides a quick summary of these:
(Click on the image to download it in a new tab.)
Registering Your Drones
You are required to register your drone with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) if the drone weighs over 250 grams and you intend to fly the drone in and over Singapore.
To be eligible to register a drone, you must:
- Be at least 16 years of age (If you are not, the drone must be registered in your parent or legal guardian’s name);
- Have a valid contact address; and
- Have valid SingPass credentials, or other authentication credentials approved by CAAS.
To register the drone, you need to complete the following steps:
1) Obtain a registration label for your drone
You need to obtain a registration label for your drone. Each registration label will contain an unique identification number which will be tagged to your drone.
You can obtain such a label from either the online CAAS shop, any post office of Singapore Post or any other persons authorised by CAAS to sell or provide such labels.
After obtaining the registration label, you must stick the label at a clear place on the drone and ensure that the unique identification number is visibly stated on the registration label.
Each label costs $15. A Singaporean or permanent resident can obtain up to 5 registration labels, whereas a foreigner can only obtain 1 registration label.
2) Submit your registration form
You can submit your registration form online via the UAPortal on the CAAS website. Please prepare the following documentation before accessing the portal:
- A valid UA registration label (as obtained in the previous step)
- Registration ID and Verification ID (found within UA registration label and packaging)
- Your personal details, such as your name, age and contact address
- Details of the drone, such as its brand, its serial number, flight controller number, weight and frequency
- A digital photo of the drone with the affixed UA registration label
Penalties for non-compliance with drone registration and related requirements
From 2 April 2020, it will be an offence to operate an unregistered drone above 250 grams. Any person who does so, or fails to comply with the registration requirements mentioned above, will be sentenced to up to 6 months’ imprisonment or up to a $10,000 fine, or both, for each offence.
Attending Drone Training and Obtaining the Relevant Certificates/Licences
From 1 June 2020, new regulations requiring certain drone operators to attend training and obtain the relevant certificates or licences will be put in place. These regulations will be enforced from 1 September 2020 onwards. After which, non-compliance with the regulations will be an offence.
If you intend to operate a drone up to 7kg for recreational or educational purposes
Under the new regulations, if you plan on operating a drone that has a total mass above 1.5kg up to 7kg for a recreational or educational purpose, you will be either required to:
- Hold a UA Basic Training certificate and be at least 16 years old; or
- Fly your drone under the supervision of someone who has such a certificate (otherwise known as the supervising pilot).
To obtain the Basic Training certificate, you will be required to sign up and participate in a one-time UA basic theory training course. Through this course, you will learn how to operate your UA or drone safely.
The course will be conducted by CAAS-approved training companies and take no longer than 2 hours to be completed. Upon completion of this course, you will be awarded the UA Basic Training certificate.
If you intend to operate a drone above 7kg or for commercial purposes
Pass a theory and practical test, and obtain a UA Pilot Licence (UAPL)
If you intend to operate a drone for a commercial purpose (regardless of the weight of the drone), or if your drone is above 7 kg, you will be required to obtain an UA Pilot Licence (UAPL).
To obtain the UA pilot licence, you must:
- Be at least 16 years of age;
- Have successfully passed a theory test administered by CAAS; and
- Have successfully passed a practical assessment, of the specific class and category of drone you intend to operate, conducted by an authorised flight examiner.
The theory test will cover aspects such as air law and safety and operations. To prepare for the test and assessment, you may attend theory and practical classes which will be conducted by a UA Training and Assessment Organisation (UATO). A list of UATOs is available here.
Upon completion of your theory test and practical assessment, you will be awarded a UAPL which will authorise you to operate a drone of the category and rating specified in the licence.
There are mainly 2 categories – Class A and Class B – that one can obtain a UAPL under. A Class A UAPL allows you to fly any drone, weighing up to 25kg, within one the following categories:
- Power-lifted drone
On the other hand, the Class B UAPL allows you to fly only a specific model of drone weighing more than 25kg. To get a Class B UAPL, you will need a Class A UAPL for the specific category that the drone model you intend to fly is classified under.
The drone model also has to be approved within a UA operator permit (more information on this below).
If you hold a Class A UAPL
Holders of a Class A UAPL are also mandated by law to undergo a proficiency test once every 4 years from the date that you were awarded your UAPL.
If you skip this proficiency test, your UAPL will expire at the end of the 4 years from either the date which you obtained your licence, or the date since you last passed the proficiency test.
If you hold a Class B UAPL
Holders of a Class B UAPL will be required to complete a refresher training at least once a year conducted by a UATO.
If you fail to take this refresher course, then your UAPL will expire 1 year from either the date which you obtained the Class B UAPL licence, or from the date that you last completed Class B refresher training.
Penalties for operating a drone without the relevant certificate or licence
It is an offence to operate a drone weighing above 7kg or for recreational or educational purposes without a valid UAPL.
In addition, from 1 September 2020, it will also be an offence if you:
- Fail to produce a certificate if asked by the relevant authorities to do so when either operating a drone or supervising someone operating a drone.
- Operate a drone which is either above 7kg or for commercial purposes (regardless of the drone’s weight) without a valid UAPL
For a first-time offence, you will be fined up to $50,000 or imprisoned up to 2 years, or given both punishments. For repeat offences, you will be fined up to $100,000, or imprisoned up to 5 years, or given both punishments.
Penalties for failing to produce your certificate or licence
While operating your drone (or supervising someone who is doing so), you may be requested by CAAS-authorised personnel to produce your certificate or licence. This is to allow them to determine your identity, the validity of your certificate or licence, and whether you are authorised to operate the drone.
If you fail to produce your certificate or licence and have no reasonable excuse for not doing so, you will be committing an offence. For a first- time offence, you will be fined up to $20,000. For repeat offences, you will be fined up to $40,000, or imprisoned up to 15 months, or given both punishments.
Applying for Drone Permits: Operator Permit and Activity Permit
Operator and activity permits are issued by CAAS to certify and authorise an individual to safely operate a drone outdoors.
Depending on the weight of the drone and your purpose for operating the drone, you may also be required to obtain either a Class 1 or Class 2 activity permit, and/or a UA operator permit.
UA Operator permit
An UA operator permit is issued by CAAS to a company or individual only if the applicant has demonstrated safe handling and operation of the drone. In deciding whether to issue the permit, the CAAS will ascertain:
- The applicant’s organisational set-up
- Whether the applicant conducts safety risk assessments
- The airworthiness of each of the applicant’s drones
- The competency of the personnel involved in the flying of the drone.
A UA operator permit is valid up to a year.
Conversely, an activity permit is granted by the CAAS to an organisation or individual for either a single activity or a block of repeated activities to be carried out by the drone.
In granting the activity permit, the CAAS will consider factors such as the:
- Date and time of the drone flights
- Operating altitude of the drone during the flight
- Location of operation
- Purpose for flying the drone
- Mitigation measures put in place to address potential concerns with the drone’s operational environment
You need to obtain a Class 1 activity permit and a UA operator permit if you intend to operate a drone:
- Weighing above 25kg for any purpose
- Weighs between 7kg and 25kg outdoors for an educational purpose
- (Being of any weight) in the course of business or for a commercial purpose.
On the other hand, you only need to obtain a Class 2 activity permit:
- Either if you wish to operate a drone that weighs 25kg or below and outdoors for any recreational purpose; or
- If your operate a drone which weighs 7kg or below for an educational purpose; and
- When your planned activity satisfies any of the following circumstances:
- When your drone operates higher than 200ft (about 60m) above mean sea level;
- If your drone flies within 5km of any civil aerodrome or military airbase; or
- If your drone comes within any dangerous or restricted area.
Applying for a permit
Permit applications are to be submitted electronically via the CAAS website.
For UA operator permits, you would need to submit documents such as an Operations Manual, the purpose of which is to describe the details of how the operator plans to operate his drone in Singapore.
The Operations Manual should include key details such as:
- The identity and contact details of drone operator;
- The general procedures for incident and accident reporting;
- A description of flight records; and
- A description of an internal training programme to ensure the competency of drone pilots.
For an activity permit, you would be required to submit:
- An illustration of the whole flight plan;
- A floor plan which shows the horizontal flight path of the UA; and
- Indicate whether the activity is to take place within proximity of an organised event where a crowd is expected.
All applications to acquire either an UA operator permit or activity permit should be made at least 2 weeks in advance before your planned date of operation to allow for sufficient time for processing these permits. You can expect the processing time for an activity permit to be around 5 days whereas it would take about 10 days for a UA operator’s permit.
The relevant fees to be paid to obtain each permit can be found in the table below:
|Permit Application Type||Fee|
|UA operator permit (OP)||New: Operator Assessment + 1st UA type||$600|
|For each UA type added or substituted||$400|
|Class 1 activity permit (AP1)||Each activity or block of different dates/times of the same activity (i.e. same location, types of operations, and UA type)||$75|
|Repeat activity (same as previously-approved activity permit) with new dates/times only||$25|
|Class 2 activity permit (AP2)||Each activity or block of different dates/times of the same activity (i.e. same location, types of operations, and UA type)||$60|
|Repeat activity (same as previously approved activity permit) with new dates/times only||$20|
Penalties for failing to obtain the required permit
If you fail to obtain an UA operator permit for operating drones which require such permits:
- For a first-time offence, you can be fined up to $50,000 or imprisoned for up to 2 years, or given both punishments
- For second and subsequent offences, you can be fined up to $100,000 or imprisoned for up to 5 years, or given both punishments.
Situations in which no operator permit or activity permit is required
You do not have to obtain permits for your drones if their operation fall within any of the following categories:
- if you were to fly your drone outside of Singapore;
- if you were to fly your drone indoors within a private residence; or
- if you were to fly your drone indoors at an experimental site in connection with the construction or testing;
- if you were to fly a drone which weighs either:
- Up to 25kg, or
- Up to 7kg and is used for educational purposes,
and remains in your line of sight as you operate it. For this exception, the person should not be operating the drone for a Class 2 activity. A drone remains in your line of sight when you are able to see the drone as you are operating it.
- If you were engaged by a UATO to fly a drone for the purposes of providing training or instruction to a new drone user. For this exception, the person should not operate the drone for a Class 2 activity.
Flying Your Drone
When operating your drone, you are not allowed to fly it in certain dangerous, protected or restricted areas unless you have a Class 2 activity permit.
Such restricted areas include areas within 5km of a civil aerodrome or a military airbase and alsoinclude the Central Business District, specified parts of Upper Pierce Reservoir Park, airspaces within 5km of Changi Airport as well as the Paya Lebar Air Base.
You can use the oneMap portal to check for no-fly zones in Singapore which are off-limits to drones.
If you were to fly a drone into these restricted areas, you must be able to produce an activity permit when asked upon by the relevant authorities. Otherwise:
- For a first-time offence, you can be fined up to $20,000;
- For repeat offences, you can be fined up to $40,000, or be imprisoned for up to 15 months, or given both punishments.
In March 2020, a man was fined $9,000 for flying a drone in an open field in Punggol that was within 5km of Paya Lebar Air Base, without a Class 2 activity permit.
Additionally, your drone is also not allowed to carry any dangerous goods when flying over Singapore. Dangerous goods include weapons, explosive or radioactive materials, or any hazardous materials that are prescribed and published in the Singapore Government Gazette.
You will be guilty of an offence if your drone does carry such dangerous materials over Singapore. In such an instance, you can face a fine up to $100,000 or imprisonment for a term up to 5 years or both.
Privacy considerations under the PDPA when using drones
It is a common occurrence to see drones being used for photography and videography purposes to capture aerial photos. However, you must be aware of the potential privacy concerns that you may face when using drones for such purposes.
Obtaining consent when using drones for commercial purposes
The obligations under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) do not apply to someone who takes such photos in a personal capacity.This typically refers to situations where you are taking the photos for your own personal use, such as taking photos at gatherings involving family and friends.
However, where an organisation or an individual uses drones with either photography or video-recording capabilities for commercial purposes, they will be subject to legal requirements under the PDPA. Such instances would include if you were employed by an organisation as a freelance photographer, to take photos for a wedding ceremony.
If you plan on taking photos with your drones for such commercial purposes, you need to obtain consent from the people who would appear in and be identifiable in such photos. Such consent can be actually obtained or obtained in the form of deemed consent.
Actual consent can be obtained when attendees of an event expressly sign a form indicating their consent for their photos to be taken. On the other hand, deemed consent refers to a situation where the law assumes that persons would have given consent by voluntarily taking part in the activities in which their personal data would be utilised.
For example, when the organisation puts up obvious signs on the entrance of the function venue to inform the attendees that photographs will be taken at the event, persons entering the function are deemed to have consented to having their photographs taken.
No using of drones to take photos or videos in protected areas
Examples of such areas include the Istana, army camps and the Police Cantonment Complex. Use the “Protected Area under Section 7 Air Navigation Act” option in the oneMap portal to check if the place you intend to take drone photos or videos in is a protected area.
If you are found guilty of using a drone to take photos or videos in protected areas:
- For a first-time offence, you can be fined up to $50,000 or imprisoned for up to 2 years, or given both punishments;
- For repeat offences, you can be fined up to $100,000 or be imprisoned for up to 5 years, or given both punishments.
Many laws have been enacted with the purpose of ensuring that drone operators in Singapore conduct their operations in a safe and secure manner.
While the extent of these measures may discourage new users from joining the drone community, these measures aim to help ensure the safe operation of drones, so as to not interfere with air travel or cause personal danger to others.
Should you wish to operate a drone in Singapore, you should make the necessary checks to determine what kinds of permits or licences that you may need, and obtain such permits and licences as required, to play your part in keeping Singapore’s airspace a safe one.
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