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Drone enthusiasts and members of the public learning about the proposed enhancements to the unmanned aircraft regulatory framework at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) booth/ Credit: CAAS

Drone enthusiasts and members of the public learning about the proposed enhancements to the unmanned aircraft regulatory framework at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) booth/ Credit: CAAS

Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore proposes enhanced drone regulatory framework

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has announced plans to enhance the unmanned aircraft (UA or drone) regulatory framework and is seeking feedback from members of the public.

Areas being reviewed include the UA operating guidelines, the UA pilot competency requirements, as well as requirements for UA with total mass of more than 25 kg.

The review is based on CAAS’ three-year experience with the implementation of the UA regulatory framework, international benchmarking and feedback from UA users in Singapore.

A public consultation exercise kicked off on 29 April 2018 at the Drone Showcase, in conjunction with Car-Free Sunday SG @ one-north, organised by JTC and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Members of the public can provide their feedback via the Reach website (http://www.reach.gov.sg) until 31 May 2018.

Current framework

Under the current framework, Operator Permits (OP) and/or Activity Permits are required for operating UA under the following circumstances:  

Credit: Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore

An Operator Permit is granted by CAAS to an organisation or individual after the applicant has been assessed to be able to conduct operation of UA safely. CAAS' assessment includes, but not limited to, the applicant’s organisational set-up, competency of the personnel especially those flying the UA, procedures to manage safety including the conduct of safety risk assessments, and the airworthiness of each UA.

An Activity Permit is granted by CAAS to an applicant for a single activity or a block of repeated activities to be carried out by a UA taking into account the location, altitude and period of the operation, type(s) of operation to be conducted, and mitigation measures to address location-specific circumstances. This is to ensure that adequate safety measures are put in place at the area(s) of operation and that the UA operations will not disrupt manned aircraft operations.

Proposed enhancements

Additional guidance

CAAS intends to enhance UA operating guidelines to include additional guidance for addressing the importance of understanding the characteristics of the UA, particularly the limitations published by the UAS manufacturers. The additional guidance will also address users’ modification or customisation of UA with a view to ensuring the airworthiness of the UA. 

Online training programme

CAAS will also introduce an online training programme to equip persons flying UA with the essential knowledge of flying UA safely. Currently, a person flying a UA with total mass of 7 kg or below for recreational or research purposes is advised to follow the UA operating guidelines. The online training programme will be compulsory for persons flying UA with total mass of more than 1.5 kg but up to 7 kg for recreational or research purposes. 

Pilot licensing framework

A UA pilot licensing framework will be introduced for certain UA operations to ensure that UA pilots have a minimum competency level. Under this framework, a person must demonstrate competency in terms of skills, knowledge and experience before he can be granted a UA pilot licence (UAPL) by CAAS.

Any person flying UA with total mass of more than 7 kg for recreational or research purposes will be required to obtain a UAPL granted by CAAS. With the UAPL, the person will no longer be required to apply for an OP.

There will be three categories of UAPL, namely Aeroplane, Rotorcraft and Powered-lift, with ratings associated to each category depending on whether the total mass of the UA is 25 kg or below or above 25 kg.

Any person flying UA for non-recreational or non-research purposes will be required to obtain a UAPL granted by CAAS. This seeks to enhance the flexibility for holders of OP to engage any UA pilot with a valid UAPL. However, holders of OP must still ensure that the UA pilots they engage are familiar with their specific operational requirements.

UA training organisation framework 

CAAS will introduce a UA training organisation framework to support the proposed UA pilot licensing. Under this framework, training organisations approved by CAAS will provide training to equip UA pilots with the necessary competency, as well as to conduct the assessment required for the grant of a UAPL by CAAS. 

Additional requirements for persons operating UA with total mass more than 25 kg

CAAS will also introduce additional requirements for persons operating UA with total mass more than 25 kg, which correspond with the increase in safety risk. These requirements may include partial or full type certification of the UA (type certificate defines the design of the aircraft type and certifies that this design meets the appropriate airworthiness requirements established), certification of the UA operator and maintenance organisation.

Proposed framework

With the above proposed enhancements, the UA regulatory framework will be as below:

Credit: Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore

Mr Kevin Shum, Director-General of CAAS, said, “The rapid growth in UA activities benefits both the users and the economy but may pose risk to aviation and public safety, particularly in Singapore’s highly urbanised environment. While we are keen to support the fast growing UA industry, this always needs to be balanced against the need to maintain high levels of aviation and public safety.”

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