Drone pilot fined $37,000 for hindering military fighter jets

The 43-year-old drone pilot, Jason Ng Yok Sen, from , has been fined no less than 51,000 Singapore dollars (about $37,000 USD) for accidentally hindering two fighter jets by using his DJI Mavic 2 drone to fly close to the runway of a military . If the man cannot pay the fine, he faces 100 days in prison.

In the flight path

The incident took place on the evening of September 8, 2020. Jason launched his DJI Mavic 2 Zoom drone from a park south of Tengah Air Base, the main airbase of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). The man did not realize that he was flying exactly in the approach path of the runway with his drone. The drone was in the air for 20 minutes and covered more than 900 meters in that time. The maximum flight altitude was 134 meters.

At the same time, two incoming fighter jets were expected, with a total of four crew members on board. Fortunately, thanks to the presence of a DJI AeroScope drone detector, the alarm could be raised in time. The two arriving fighter jets were diverted and the runway was briefly closed.

Drone Pilot Fined $37,000 For Hindering Military Fighter Jets
A satellite image of Tengah Air Base. Source: Google Maps

‘Real risk of collision’

Public Prosecutor Chong Ee Hsiun said the drone flight could have ended badly:

“There was a real risk of a collision, which would have threatened both lives and equipment. The RSAF had to divert the two affected aircraft from the said runway and impose a 30-minute runway closure due to the actions of the accused.”

Judge Lorraine Ho stressed in the verdict that the reckless drone flight had disrupted military actions. The judge also blamed the drone pilot for not having a pilot’s license. In Singapore, every drone pilot who wants to fly higher than 60 meters above sea level must have a so-called Class 2 Activity Permit. The man purchased the drone at the end of 2018.

Drone Pilot Fined $37,000 For Hindering Military Fighter Jets

Highest fine ever

The drone pilot was eventually fined almost $37,000 USD, which, if not paid on time, converts into a prison sentence of 100 days. It is the first time such a large fine has been handed out in Singapore for an illegal drone flight.

According to the drone pilot’s lawyer, a lower fine would have been appropriate: “It cannot be ignored that there was no actual injury to persons and/or damage to property or aircraft. Jason was just a drone hobbyist who, while intending to fly the drone, had no specific goals or malicious intent to endanger life or property, much less endanger aircraft in flight.”

Source: The Straits Times, Cover photo: Alert5, CC BY-SA)

Drone Pilot Fined $37,000 For Hindering Military Fighter Jets 1

This article first appeared on Dronewatch and is written by Wiebe de Jager who is also a DroneXL contributor.

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Wiebe de Jager

Wiebe de Jager (@wdejager) is the founder of Dronewatch and author of several bestselling books about drone photography. Wiebe is a certified drone pilot and has a full ROC license.

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