Singapore Changi Airport shuts runway over drone sighting

Operations on one runway at the Singapore airport was shut down intermittently over 10 hours after an unauthorised drone was spotted, leading to 37 flight delays and a diversion.

A runway at Singapore's Changi Airport was shut down intermittently over a span of 10 hours after an unauthorised drone was spotted in the vicinity, leading to several flight delays and one diversion. The operator of the unmanned aircraft has yet to be identified. 

Operations at the affected runway were suspended for "short periods of time" from 11pm on June 18 to 9am local time the next day, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) in a statement Wednesday confirming the drone sightings. Another runway was not impacted by the incident. 

The industry regulator said 37 departure and arrival flights were delayed, while one arrival flight was diverted to Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur. 

CAAS said investigations into the breach were ongoing and other government agencies, including the Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Police Force, were involved in search-and-locate operations. 

Drones or unmanned aircraft systems in Singapore are not allowed within 5km of any airport or military airbase and must fly lower than 200 feet. They also must not weigh heavier than 7kg. Drone operators that wish to fly their aircraft outside these regulations can apply for permits to do so from the CAAS.

In its statement on Wednesday, the authority said it would not hesitate to take enforcement action against those that violated the law, noting that offenders could face fines of up to SG$20,000 or jail terms of up to a year, or both. 

Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said in January that there had been eight reports of unauthorised drones within 5km of Changi Airport over the last three years, though, none involved intrusions into the airport. He added that the government had "counter measures" to address the safety and security threats posed by these aircraft systems and such efforts were carried out alongside the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs.

Lam said: "We will continue to monitor developments globally and collaborate with foreign counterparts and industry partners to study and implement additional measures when required." The minister then added that the CAAS was working on plans to develop a system to monitor drones in Singapore. 

The industry regulator last month established an advisory panel to assess and recommend improvements to the regulatory framework for unmanned aircraft systems. This committee also would seek the views and feedback of drone users as well as other stakeholders in making its recommendations, which were expected to be ready by early next year. 

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