herald

Thursday 24 January 2019

Ross moves to allay fears over drone activity in our airspace

Transport Minister Shane Ross
Transport Minister Shane Ross

The threat of drone activity to Irish airports is to be considered in the wake of incidents that disrupted flights in Britain.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has called a special meeting of the National Civil Aviation Threat and Risk Group today to advise him on the recent incidents in the UK and their implication for Irish airports.

A reported drone sighting at Heathrow Airport halted departures at the London location for about an hour on Tuesday.

And thousands of passengers saw their travel plans disrupted after drones were sighted at Gatwick Airport last month, with departures and arrivals postponed and a huge backlog of flights resulting from the closure of the runways.

Fears have surfaced of Ireland's state of readiness should any similar incidents occur here and officials have expressed their wish that potential passengers' concerns over drones be allayed.

Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond yesterday called on Mr Ross to confirm that Dublin Airport is adequately prepared to deal with similar incidents to those that caused such chaos and misery to travellers in the UK. "The economic and human costs of these drone attacks have been massive," he said.

Strict

"Understandably many Irish travellers are concerned the same could happen here."

Mr Ross yesterday said he is convening the special meeting of the National Civil Aviation Threat and Risk Group.

A Transport Department statement said that should there be any further steps required to improve how the State can respond to the threat of illegal drone activity around Irish airports, the minister "will take appropriate action".

"There are already strict rules in Ireland around the use of drones, including an exclusion zone of five kilometres around airports," Mr Ross said.

"The misuse of drones is an offence, and flying drones in controlled Irish airspace or within five kilometres of an airport is a very serious matter.

"I have asked my department to convene at short notice a special meeting of an expert industry group to assess recent events and advise me on how we are prepared at our own airports, and whether there are further things which can be done."

The National Civil Aviation Threat and Risk Group is chaired by the Department of Transport and includes representatives from the Irish Aviation Authority, the State airports, Irish airlines, the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, gardai and Defence Forces.

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