DPP felt drone prosecution too heavy-handed, forum hears

Drones Data X Conference discusses issues around use and policing of drone activity

Drones Data X Conference heard Ireland is well-regarded in the field of drone regulation. There are 138 companies with special operating permits that allow them use drones outside of normal guidelines. Photograph: Alan Betson

Drones Data X Conference heard Ireland is well-regarded in the field of drone regulation. There are 138 companies with special operating permits that allow them use drones outside of normal guidelines. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided against bringing Ireland’s first prosecution against drone users because it felt the criminal sanctions “too heavy-handed”, an aviation official has said.

Ralph James, director of safety regulation at the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), was asked at the Drones Data X Conference in Dublin if anyone had been prosecuted since use of the devices was regulated recently.

A member of the audience said he was “bitter” having spent money to be responsible and learn how to use a drone but said you could visit YouTube and see footage of drone flights that did not appear to comply with regulations.

“Enforcement is an issue across Europe and it is an issue here,” Mr James said. “We tried to get one major prosecution through, in fact two, but the DPP wouldn’t run with the prosecution . . . The reason . . . was what we have in the Aviation Act is a criminal offence, and they felt that that was too heavy-handed for owning a drone that goes out of control.”

Mr James did not specify the nature of the incidents in question. He said there was an “ascending scale” for those who flaunt the regulations. First they are told of their infraction. If they repeat the offence, they receive formal written notification, and if that does not work they are brought into the authority.

Drone registration

Mr James said the IAA had seen more than 6,000 drones registered since that process became mandatory last December.

The authority is expecting another “surge” in drone purchases this Christmas. Last December, Mr James said, retailer Harvey Norman alone stocked 15,000 machines of varying sizes for the Christmas market.

The IAA has met various companies seeking to develop drone technology with the conference hearing Ireland is well-regarded in the field of drone regulation. There are 138 companies with special operating permits that allow them use drones outside of normal guidelines.

Another speaker, Jack Dashwood of Movidius – the Irish technology company recently sold to Intel for about €355 million – said the world was on the cusp of a revolution in robotic intelligence.

Drone innovation, he said, will include everything from automatic wedding photographers recognising optimum moments to take pictures in crowds, to those that can autonomously detect when a swimmer is in trouble on a crowded beach.