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Pic: Leah Farrell
Dublin Airport

Ministers meet aviation officials and gardaí over repeated drone disruption at Dublin Airport

Illegal drone activity at the airfield once again brought operations to a halt yesterday.

LAST UPDATE | 7 Feb 2023

GOVERNMENT MINISTERS HAVE met with aviation officials and gardaí today to address drone activity at Dublin Airport that caused flights to be delayed and diverted in recent days.

Flights from the airport were once again temporarily suspended yesterday as a drone was spotted on the airfield, posing a risk to passenger safety.

The illegal drone activity brought operations at the airport to a halt and saw thousands of passengers delayed. The interruption lasted for 40 minutes and flights restarted at 7.45pm.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State for International Road Transport Jack Chambers met with representatives from the daa (Dublin Airport Authority), the Irish Aviation Authority, the Department of Justice and gardaí this evening.

The ministers said they take the issue very seriously and will work with the relevant state bodies to ensure ensure it is tackled effectively, saying that the safety of passengers, crew and airport staff is the primary consideration.

A statement from the Department of Transport detailed that the daa has a drone detection system in operation that gives early warning of illegal drone activity.

Information collected from system is being used to “pursue enforcement activity, including prosecution”.

Conviction carries a possible sentence of up to seven years.

“The ministers will engage across Government to strengthen our ability to deal with such incidents, including exploring the potential for enhanced technological solutions,” the department said.

“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.”

Gardaí have confirmed they are conducting a full investigation into the disruptions.

“Gardaí in Dublin Airport were alerted to a call shortly after 7p.m. on Monday 6th February, 2023 to a confirmed sighting of a drone at Dublin Airport,” a garda spokesperson said. 

They added that the regulation of drones is a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority. 

A Dublin Airport spokesperson has condemned the “reckless and irresponsible behaviour of those causing ongoing drone disruptions” adding that those found responsible will face prosecution. 

The spokesperson said that the 40 minute standstill caused a “huge inconvenience” to passengers. 

It is illegal to fly drones within 5 km of the airport.

Four flights were diverted from Dublin on Friday when operations had to be suspended for less than ten minutes due to an apparent drone sighting.

However, a spokesperson for the Dublin Airport Authority has stated today that no drones were in fact present at the airport on Friday.

“The drone detection system in place at Dublin Airport, working in tandem with input from airline pilots, ground crew and Air Traffic Control, provides a robust monitoring system which allows for a safe and timely response to these incidents to allow us to focus on our top priorities, safety and security.”

“Investigations into the various drone incidents over the weekend are continuing. We have concluded that on Friday there was no drone present but the presence of drones on Saturday afternoon and Monday afternoon has been verified and these incidents are being investigated by An Garda Siochana.

“The flying of drones near Dublin Airport is reckless. Daa strongly urges drone owners to follow the strict regulations on the operation of drones to avoid a repeat of the disruption to our passengers, airline partners over recent days,” the statement concluded.

Flights were once again diverted yesterday evening, with several crews having to redirect to Belfast and Shannon Airports.

Earlier today, Minister Ryan said that the Government is fully supporting Dublin Airport and that he would sit down with management to look at the “different mechanism” that could be used to deter drones.

“It’s very hard to do with the scale of the airport and the size of a drone,” he said. 

Ryan warned that the Gardaí are actively investigating these drone appearances and whoever is responsible is “subject to arrest”.

Speaking on his way to Cabinet this morning, Ryan added that he believes that this is the “best way’ to tackle these incidents, “because the person who is doing this is taking risks with their own liberty”.

Elsewhere, Ryanair have called on the Government to take immediate action following the disruption, as yesterday’s incident prevented four Ryanair aircrafts from landing.

The airline has repeated a call for the Transport Minister to state what actions are being taken to prevent further disruptions.

A spokesperson said that it is “unacceptable” that passengers have faced repeated disruptions due to drone activity.

Additional reporting by Lauren Boland

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