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Time to ‘ground’ illegal drone operators following three days of disruption at Dublin Airport – Doherty

7th February 2023 - Regina Doherty

A Fine Gael Senator has called for anti-drone systems to be deployed to counter drones that are illegally flown in the vicinity of airports, coupled with a stronger identification process for drone operators. The call comes following three consecutive days of disruption at Dublin Airport.

Senator Regina Doherty, Fine Gael’s Spokesperson on Transport, said: “Yesterday, thousands of passengers were impacted when Dublin Airport was forced to close for 45 minutes due to a drone flying in the vicinity of the runway.

“Four Ryanair flights were prevented from landing and were diverted to Belfast and Shannon. Several flights on the ground were prevented from taking off and were significantly delayed.

“This was by no means an isolated incident. Over the weekend, flights were suspended on two separate occasions because of drone activity. Both the passengers and the airlines affected – particularly Ryanair – are justifiably angry, and they are demanding immediate action.

“Drone operators need no reminding that is against the law to fly a drone within 5 kilometres of an airport, and while those responsible would – in theory – face prosecution, it can be difficult to identify them.

“Every drone has a unique identifier called a Media Access Control (MAC) address assigned to it. Through the Irish Aviation Authority, we have a national register of every drone sold in this country, and while every drone operator should – in theory – be linked to an individual MAC address, the system is frequently flouted.

“There are tens of thousands of drones operating here, but very few are actually registered.

“Ireland needs to introduce stronger regulations on drone ownership from the point of sale, to ensure prosecution for operators who fly their drones in an illegal, irresponsible and dangerous manner.

“The French Ministry of Defence recently selected a number of tech companies to develop an anti-drone platform capable of detecting and identifying small, non-piloted aircraft. Their use of radar and optronic technology can neutralise drones using highly-concentrated energy signals.

“This is a security measure in preparation for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics, but I think it ought to be examined for use in identifying drones that fly in the vicinity of Irish airports, and therefore threaten airspace.

“I’m calling on Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to introduce anti-drone systems at Ireland’s airports, along with a new and improved regulatory system for drones, to ensure that those who threaten the safety and security of our airspace face consequences. It is time to ‘ground’ these illegal drone operators once and for all,” concluded Senator Doherty.

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