Opposition calls for more robust drone regulations

Ireland’s main opposition party has called for more robust regulations after a drone sighting caused the suspension of flights at Dublin Airport.

Flights were temporarily grounded on Thursday causing disruption to thousands of customers.

Dublin Airport said agreed drone protocols with the Irish Aviation Authority were immediately activated and followed.

Flights resumed within 30 minutes.

Fianna Fail transport spokesman Robert Troy TD said he was glad that the disruption to flights at the airport was kept to a minimum and that all flights had resumed.

“However let there be no doubt about it, it could have been much more chaotic,” he said.

Mr Troy said previous comments by Transport Minister Shane Ross that the likelihood of a drone attack in Ireland was “low” clearly showed “his lack of understanding of the seriousness of the issue”.

Last month a special meeting of the National Civil Aviation Threat and Risk Group was called to advise Mr Ross following drone incidents in the UK.

Mr Ross said that there were already “strict rules” in Ireland around the use of drones including an exclusion zone of five kilometres around airports.

But the group advised him that a fresh, detailed risk assessment would need to be carried out within weeks.

Mr Troy said: “Following the drone sightings at Gatwick Airport, [Mr Ross] was at pains to stress that the regulatory provisions in place in Ireland, which control and restrict the use of drones, were stronger than those of the UK.

“His dismissive attitude and the failure of the Government to progress the Fianna Fail Bill to regulate drone usage which was brought forward by my party colleague James Lawless, will lead to further disruptions such as was seen in Dublin Airport.

“Having our air space compromised by the threat of drones is not something they can continue to ignore.”

Fianna Fail science spokesman Mr Lawless called on the government to urgently progress the legislation he proposed on drones that is currently making its way through parliament.

Mr Lawless said: “Other jurisdictions have responded rapidly to the emerging threats such as in the UK where they are granting more powers to police forces to intercept drones and their operators, or Canada, where emergency legislation very similar to mine has been passed since Christmas. It’s time the government stepped up to the plate.”

The Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) Bill 2017 proposes that drones are registered with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and that prior to use the owner must be issued with a registration certificate by the IAA.

Ireland’s deputy premier said the Government was looking into the incident.

Simon Coveney told the Dail the Transport Minister had given a commitment to look into the issue and to ensure that an appropriate response is put in place.

Mr Coveney said Ireland was not immune from the challenges drones posed.

“There are some very sophisticated airports in some very well resourced countries that haven’t been able to deal with this issue easily, in the US and the UK most recently,” he said.

“I don’t think we should pretend that Ireland should be immune from challenges that are very difficult to deal with from a technical perspective.

“But we of course will learn from the lessons of others particularly our closest neighbour and ensure that we put mechanisms in place that are as effective as possible.”

Labour party transport spokesman Senator Kevin Humphreys described the behaviour of those involved in the incident at Dublin airport as “reckless”.

Mr Humphreys said: “I am hopeful that the Dublin Airport Authority has a strategy in place to deal with this incident, and does not just rely on the five kilometre exclusion zones for drones at airports.

“Especially after the incident at Gatwick last year, I would have expected a strategy to be put in place for any such happenings around our airports.”

Independent TD Michael Healy Rae tweeted a video, saying he knew what he would do with the drone at the airport.

The Kerry TD tweeted: “I know what I’d do with the Drone flying around Dublin airport !!”

The tweet included a video of him clay pigeon shooting in the countryside.

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