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Wednesday 31 May 2023 Dublin: 15°C
Joaquin Ossorio Castillo/Shutterstock File photo of Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport
# Disruption
Dublin Airport chief calls for 'draconian' prison sentences for flying drones over airfields
The current maximum sentence in Ireland is seven years, but it’s a life sentence in the UK.

LAST UPDATE | Feb 8th 2023, 10:54 AM

DRONES CAUSING DISRUPTIONS at airports and events is “a statewide issue” that needs to be tackled with harsher penalties such as longer prison sentences, the Chief Executive Officer of DAA (formerly the Dublin Airport Authority) has said.

Kenny Jacobs was speaking after illegal drone activity resulted in several flights being delayed or diverted at Dublin Airport over the weekend.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State for International Road Transport Jack Chambers met with representatives from the DAA, the Irish Aviation Authority, the Department of Justice and gardaí yesterday evening to discuss the issue.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland today, Jacobs said there was “a number of conclusions” from the discussion and that further meetings will take place.

“There are a number of things that can be done to prevent this. This is not a matter for just Dublin Airport, that’s the first thing I’d like to say. Next weekend, this could happen at Shannon Airport.

“It could also happen over the Aviva Stadium while Ireland are playing France and that match could be disrupted because of drones. So I think this is a statewide issue.”

Jacobs said that DAA shares data from its drone detection system with gardaí, who can bring forward prosecutions. He noted that such prosecutions carry a maximum sentence of seven years, but said this should be increased.

“In the UK, they’ve increased that to a maximum life sentence for people that are flying drones over an airfield.

“So I think getting the system in place to take drones down is something that would be good for the State ,and increasing the sentencing.

“So that if people are breaking the law, and they are breaking the law if they fly a drone near Dublin airport or any airport, there needs to be draconian sentencing in place.”

Drone detection system

Jacobs said that Dublin Airport has a drone detection system which was deployed during 16 disruptions last weekend to ensure passenger safety.

However, he said more needs to be done by State authorities.

Jacobs noted how, after Gatwick Airport was brought to a standstill in 2018 due to drones in the airfield, the British Government and the Metropolitan Police intervened.

“Since then, the UK Government has implemented a drone countermeasure defence system – that’s not operated by Gatwick Airport, it’s not operated by Heathrow. It’s actually operated by the Metropolitan Police in London.

“So that is a defence system that allows the police in the case of London to take control of a drone, to send it back where it came from, jam the signal, or they can bring it down if they have to.”

Jacobs said that DAA has given a number of recommendations to the Government.

This goes beyond Dublin Airport, it’s not a matter for us to sort this out. I think it’s a statewide issue, probably more defence and justice than it is transport.

“Our recommendations on what should be done, I think are two things – first of all, have a system to counter drones. That is something that allows you to stop drones, something that allows you to bring a drone down if it’s over an airfield…

“Practically, that’s a piece of technology that will signal jam a drone and will also allow you to bring that drone down in a controlled manner [by] using air frequency, using the frequency that the drone is controlled with, you’re overriding that and bringing it down.”

Handheld anti drone devices

Security sources say that gardaí have looked at the use of specialist devices to bring down the drones safely. 

The devices are similar to the EDM4S, or Electronic Drone Mitigation System, and send an electromagnetic signal to the offending drone and take control of it. 

The handheld devices are being used in Ukraine to good effect against Russian drones and European countries such as France have deployed them to their airports. 

Sources have said this is the most likely and safest method to deal with the problem as shooting and netting was deemed unsafe. 

Senator Gerard Craughwell, a member of the Oireachtas Transport Committee due to meet today, said he will raise the issue at the committee. 

“We need to look at getting these devices as a matter of urgency. Any device to keep our airports clear of drones are urgently needed. We need to ensure that aircraft can take off and land – this is a safety and security issue and the quicker this is solved the better.

“This is an emergency situation and we need to obtain these devices now and make sure that we don’t get bogged down in lengthy procurement procedures.

“The fact that aircraft are being diverted because of this issue is not just an inconvenience this is costing thousands and thousands of euros every minute.

“There had been a mention that helicopters with netting could be used but the anti-drone devices would be much more efficient and would be small money compare to the delays incurred,” he said.

A statement released the Department of Transport yesterday evening noted that ministers “will engage across Government to strengthen our ability to deal with such incidents, including exploring the potential for enhanced technological solutions”.

“A policy framework for unmanned aircraft system (drones) is also in development and will include measures on enforcement and compliance. The policy framework is scheduled for publication in Q2 2023 and will be preceded by a period of public consultation,” the statement added.

With additional reporting from Niall O’Connor.

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