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Asia Minute: Drones Disrupt Flights in Singapore


Travelers are used to occasional schedule disruptions at airports — for reasons ranging from mechanical issues to weather. But over the past week there’s another factor that’s delayed flights at one of Asia’s busiest airports: drones.

Singapore’s Changi Airport serves as a major hub for air travel across Southeast Asia. And at least twice in the last week, flights have been delayed and diverted because of unmanned aerial vehicles – drones.

Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority says a combination of bad weather and what it called “unauthorized drone activity” delayed 18 flights Monday, and caused seven more to be diverted.

Last week, one of the airport’s two runways was taken out of service for hours and more than three dozen flights were delayed after several drones were sighted near flight paths close to the airport.

Singapore’s police force and its military are both investigating the drone flights, and any offenders could face fines equivalent to about 15,000 U.S. dollars — as well as a year in prison.

Drones are a growing problem for airports around the world — although the Singapore experience is the first reported in the Asia Pacific.

Last December, Gatwick Airport in London closed its runway for 33 hours over three days — disrupting travel for more than 140,000 people.

So far this year, drones have sparked delays or diversions at Heathrow Airport in London as well as other international airports in Dubai, Dublin, and Newark, New Jersey.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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