The 43-year-old drone pilot Jason Ng Yok Sen from Singapore has been fined a staggering 51,000 Singapore dollars (equivalent to approx. 35,000 euros) for accidentally obstructing two fighter jets by flying his DJI Mavic 2 drone in the extension of a military airport's runway. If the man is unable to pay the fine, he faces 100 days in prison.
The incident took place in the evening of 8 September 2020. Jason took off 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 realise that he was flying his drone exactly in the approach path of the runway. The drone was in the air for 20 minutes and covered more than 900 metres in that time. The maximum altitude was 134 metres.
At the same time, two incoming jet fighters were expected, with a total of four crew members on board. Fortunately, thanks to the presence of a DJI AeroScope drone detector, the alarm was raised in time. The two arriving fighter jets were diverted and the runway was closed for a short time.
According to prosecutor Chong Ee Hsiun, the drone flight could have ended very 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 emphasised in the ruling that the reckless drone flight had resulted in a disruption of military operations. The judge also blamed the drone pilot for not holding a pilot's licence. In Singapore, any drone pilot who wants to fly higher than 60 metres above sea level must have a so-called Class 2 Activity Permit. The man had purchased the drone at the end of 2018.
The drone pilot was eventually fined nearly €35,000, which will be converted into a 100-day jail sentence if he defaults. This is the first time that such a high 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 no actual injury to persons and/or damage to property or aircraft was caused. Jason was merely a drone hobbyist, who, while intending to fly the drone, had no specific goals or malicious intent to endanger lives or property, let alone endanger aircraft in flight."