Drone Singapore Guide

Your guide to working with drones in Singapore
March 29, 2023

A general classification for drones

In the past decade, the word drone has grown in popularity, especially through the appearance of small drone toys.

The word refers to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV meaning flying vehicles that don't have drivers.

This refers both to remote controlled flying vehicles and automated flights.

While we imagine a drone to be a small, fun toy, the original word UAV refers to something more serious that is used in warfare.

Throughout the twentieth century, countries focused on the development of drones for use in a military airbase.

As components got smaller, so did these drones, they started being used for aerial photography before getting to really small and compact toys.

The official classification ranks them in 5 groups depending on their weight.

We can however simplify the classification in three large groups.

Small drones

Photo of a small drone above a forest

These are what the public is most familiar with, working with small batteries, they often weight less than 1 kilogram and run for a couple of minutes, just enough to enjoy driving it.

Some more advanced ones are equipped with cameras for aerial photography.

Other types are built for racing and come equipped with a live camera feed.

Commercial drones

Photo of a commercial drone in the sky

This next category is built for specific business purposes and provides a lot of very helpful features.

Farmers use them to map their fields, urban designers can gain new perspectives, firefighters use them to fight fires, and rescue operations can also use them to locate survivors and assess the occurred damages.

These are often larger and might have more than 4 propellers to provide more stability and thrust.

Such drones are subject to drone laws and Singapore drone laws have their own specificities.

As a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to know the drone regulations of the area you're flying in, these are often country and city specific.

Other types are built like wings for better autonomy.

In all cases, these require larger budgets and serve specific functions by gaining a new aerial perspective on the situation.

We'll focus on these two types as they cover the general public use cases.

Unmanned Aircraft or UAVs

Photo of a military drone (UAV) taking off

This category is very specific and applies to the aviation industry.

We won't focus on this category but keep in mind they do exist and are mainly used for reconnaissance purposes.

Most of the time, an unmanned aircraft is operated remotely by a drone pilot on the ground.

Commercial drone services

Drones have allowed several sectors to gain the benefits of flight.

These marvels' main feature is their ability for stationary flight.

Hovering over a structure helps the pilot take time to analyze the situation and make decisions by directly focusing on what he's seeing.

One very interesting use case of drones is in power grids.

Maintenance teams have started using them to do predictive maintenance, meaning they use drones to fly over their infrastructure and note any small problem they notice.

These are especially useful in remote or difficult to reach areas like a barrage or in a dense forest where special equipment would be required.

Drone regulations and Singapore drone laws

Let's do a quick overview:

  • All drones weighing more than 250 grams must be registered in Singapore
  • Recreational pilots operating drones weighing between 1.5 and 7 kilograms must complete basic UA Basic Training.
  • A permit is not required to fly a drone that weighs less than 7 kilograms (15 pounds) and is flown at the height of less than 60 meters (200 feet). 

If you come to Singapore with your drone and aren't sure whether or not to register it, do make sure to declare it when arriving at the airport.

The process is quite simple and requires a 15$ label which can be purchased from either the online CAAS shop, or any post office of Singapore Post.

A Singapore resident can purchase up to 5 different labels, and a foreigner can only purchase one of them.

Civil aviation authority can be quite strict and they've also added a DO NOT list, these are important rules for public safety:

  • Drones are not permitted to fly over people or crowds. 
  • Drones must avoid interfering with emergency response personnel or flying over vehicles where their presence could distract the driver. 
  • Drones are not permitted to be flown within a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) radius of an airport. 
  • Drones are permitted to be flown only during daylight hours. You may fly your unmanned aircraft (UA) at night if you can maintain a visual line of sight with your UA at all times. You will need to ensure enhanced lighting on your UA for greater visibility when flying at night.
  • Drone pilots must always maintain visual contact with their drones

Local aviation authorities shouldn't be a problem if you use your drone within the 60 meters limit, keep a visual contact with it and avoid airports and crowds.

Singapore drone regulations are somewhat strict and failure to register your drone can lead to 6 months imprisonment, or a $10,000 fine, or both.

Do I need a permit?

The only cases where you would need a permit in Singapore is if your drone is heavier than 7 kilograms or if you intend to fly it higher than 60 meters.

If that's the case you'll need 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.

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