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About three quarters of Singapore is a no-fly-zone. That means people who fly their drones here without applying for a permit would get fined heavily and may even go to jail. 

At the same time, empty fields or other available places are often being replaced by housing or other development.

All this paired with the high cost of drone equipment as well as the steep learning curve, the barrier to start drone-flying in Singapore is huge.

The activity becomes less and less approachable to the regular person, drones get shelved, and the number of active recreational drone pilots remains low. 

A company that seeks to address this gap is FPV (First Person View) Drone videos and photography specialists, ThrottleUp Creation (ThrottleUp).

Throttling into the industry

Deciding that he had worked enough as a business consultant, Tong (also known as Pilot Tong) decided to look for something fun and challenging to do. He ended up finding his answer in drones, obtaining his Unmanned Aircraft Pilot Licence (UAPL) before delving into FPV drones.

“I was shocked that as a licensed drone pilot I was not able to fly a FPV drone. I would crash immediately after taking off,” he recalled. “I set my mind to tame this beast and I was determine to learn flying FPV.”

After mastering the skill, Tong has been focused on FPV filming and coaching.

Image Credit: ThrottleUp Creations

“I feel that in our modern world drone piloting is a life skill, just like cycling and driving,” he said. “It can be more than a hobby, a special identity as a FPV pilot, a career, and it can also save lives.”

Aside from coaching and FPV photography and videography, ThrottleUp also has offerings including The Cage (a mobile enclosure for experiential drone-flying), Drone Tours, and the Flight Club.

All these serve to let the team create more opportunities for drone-flying, given Singapore’s limited airspace. 

“Drone has been promoted by corporates and the government as the future. It is included as part of the smart nation strategy. Yet there are fewer and fewer places where the public can fly drones for recreation,” Tong pointed out.

“We hope with our initiatives we can curate more conducive places for drone-flying and gather a community of aspiring drone pilots.”

Welcome to the flight club

After curating places suitable for drone-flying, ThrottleUp launched Flight Club for drone pilots to come together as a motivation to fly more.

“We become better pilots when flying with others whom we can learn from,” Tong said.

While there other casual hobby groups who gather a few people to fly in the country, Flight Club seems to go the extra mile. They tend to provide more conducive places, such as places with toilets, shelter, electricity for charging, setting up drone gates for racing practice, a drone racing timing system, and more.

Tong added, “We also try to make arrangements to fly at exclusive places, so that we don’t need to worry about kids running into our flight path, Karens who will call the police on us, or crashing into someone walking their dogs, which are something we need to take care [with] when flying at public open fields.”

Image Credit: ThrottleUp Creations

No licence or permit is needed to join them for recreational flying, as it’s not a legal requirement by CAAS (Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore).  

But of course, the Flight Club does have some criteria. For new members, they will need to pass a basic online test, and a practical assessment to ensure they can safely and legally operate their drones. 

“We will assess their competency and aptitude for safe operation, otherwise they will not be allowed to fly,” Tong explained.

And those who need help to improve their piloting skills can attend ThrottleUp’s courses, of course.

Members will need to own to fly their own drones too, which teaches them how to care for their own equipment—a requirement for being a drone pilot, Tong said.

Image Credit: ThrottleUp Creations

Given all the no-fly zones in Singapore, one of the biggest challenges for Flight Club is finding conducive places to fly. As such, the team has made arrangements with a school to have exclusive usage of their space for flying sessions.

“We hope to have more of such partnerships who are supportive in growing the air-sports scene in Singapore,” Tong shared.

Flying into the tourism industry

Although the flight club just started this year, they already have about 50 members.

The registration fee to join Flight Club is S$240 per year. Flying meetups for these members go for S$50 for adults and S$25 for children (aged 12 and below).

Something else that ThrottleUp has been offering is drone tours, not just in Singapore but to countries like Japan and possibly Switzerland down the road. Tong believes ThrottleUp is probably a pioneer in terms of drone tours in the country.

Image Credit: ThrottleUp Creations

“The concept is not new; it is similar to photography tour where people go around nice places to take photos. For us, we are flying the cameras,” he explained.

However, in addition to finding nice scenic places for the tour, the team also has to go through paperwork for permits and registrations to make sure the participants don’t break any laws when flying drones overseas. 

Developing the industry

Tong’s vision for ThrottleUp is to expand their business overseas by establishing franchises with business partners.

But overall, the core motivator seems to be to develop Singapore’s drone scene, evident through all the coaching services that the company provides. They’ve even collaborated with local institutes of higher learning to offer drone piloting and FPV courses to nurture new pilots.

Image Credit: ThrottleUp Creations

“We are exploring opportunities with government agencies on future-oriented pedagogies in the Training and Adult Education ecosystem for the UAV industry,” he said.

They’ve already engaged with local and overseas research institutions, such as SIT and Yale University, in various R&D projects, including for biodiversity studies and wireless technologies. 

From construction to surveillance, it’s clear that the application of drones is increasing across many industries.

And starting with creative and recreational offerings, it seems that ThrottleUp is one of the players at the centre of this growing landscape.  

  • Learn more about ThrottleUp Creations here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about startups here.

Featured Image Credit: ThrottleUp

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)