8 reports of illegal drone flying near Changi Airport over past 3 years

SINGAPORE: There were eight reports of unauthorised unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, that flew within 5km of Singapore’s Changi Airport over the past three years, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min in Parliament on Monday (Jan 14).

However, none of these cases involved intrusions into the airport.

In Singapore, drones are prohibited from flying within 5km of an airport without a permit.

Dr Lam revealed this while responding to questions filed by four Members of Parliament. MPs, including Ms Foo Mee Har and Mr Darryl David, asked if Singapore’s Changi Airport could be vulnerable to disruptions caused by drones, such as those that happened at London’s Gatwick Airport, and whether measures are in place to prevent that.

Last month, unauthorised drone activity crippled Britain’s second-largest airport for three days in the run-up to Christmas, causing around 1,000 flights to be cancelled or diverted and wrecking the travel plans of about 150,000 passengers.

READ: Catch me if you can: London drone attack lays bare airport vulnerabilities

Law enforcement officers in Singapore conduct regular surveillance patrols around Changi Airport and respond to sightings of unauthorised drones, said Dr Lam.

Counter-measures to deal with the safety and security threats posed by drones are also coordinated with the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), although Dr Lam declined to reveal details, citing “security considerations”. 

“We encourage safe and responsible use of UAS because of their potential benefits. At the same time, we recognise the need to address safety and security concerns that could arise from errant and irresponsible use of UAS,” he said. 

“We will continue to monitor developments globally and collaborate with foreign counterparts and industry partners to study and implement additional measures when required.”

When asked by Ms Foo whether authorities have the capability to identify rogue drone operators and deploy anti-drone technologies to detect signals or disrupt such illegal drone usage, Dr Lam replied that enforcement agencies have been building up their capabilities.

This includes the ability to detect and identify unmanned aircraft, to locate the operators and take down the drones “safely”.

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READ: Unpiloted drones could be used for maintenance checks on Southern Islands

In terms of neutralising rogue drones, Dr Lam said the approach of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is to consider both cooperative and uncooperative drones.

For the former, authorities intend to develop a centralised flight management system that can provide “an islandwide situational picture” of drone activities.

Such a system will allow authorities to zoom in on individual drones to check if they are operating under valid permits, said Dr Lam. Authorities can also issue alerts to operators if they are found to be flouting regulations.

As for uncooperative drones, CAAS and its partners, such as Changi Airport Group, MINDEF and MHA, can “neutralise either by force down or destroy rogue UAS swiftly” via classified counter-drone technologies and solutions, Dr Lam said.

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