Irish drone ‘risk assessment’ ordered after UK disruption

Officials from Garda, Defence Forces, Irish Aviation Authority meet to discuss threats to State’s airports

A ‘fresh detailed risk assessment’ of threats to Irish airports, including the possibility of drone incursions, is to be carried out. Photograph: Michel Comte/AFP/Getty Images.

A ‘fresh detailed risk assessment’ of threats to Irish airports, including the possibility of drone incursions, is to be carried out. Photograph: Michel Comte/AFP/Getty Images.

 

A “fresh detailed risk assessment” of threats to Irish airports, including the possibility of drone incursions, is to be carried out following severe disruption caused in the UK in recent weeks.

The announcement was made following a special meeting of the National Civil Aviation Threat and Risk Group on Thursday.

It met to discuss how prepared Irish authorities would be if a similar incident to those which affected services at Heathrow and Gatwick airports were to happen in the State.

A statement from the Department of Transport, which chairs the group, said there were “operational protocols” in place to deal with illegal drone activity but details of these were not given.

“The group has advised the Minister that there will be a fresh, detailed risk assessment carried out in the coming weeks - as is established practice - and that will inform any further steps,” it said.

It is understood reviews of various security issues around airports are conducted as policy but that the next one will focus on drones given the recent incidents.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), State airports, Irish airlines, the Department of Justice, the Garda and the Defence Forces.

Sightings

About 1,000 flights were disrupted last month at Gatwick Airport near London after drones sightings were made in its airspace. There was similar but less extensive disruption around London’s Heathrow Airport on Tuesday.

In response, the UK government announced a series of measures including plans to give police the power to land, seize and search drones. Counter-drone technology is also to be tested at airports and prisons.

Irish officials, including airport management, do not comment on specific security arrangements but sources said no such technology is believed to be in use in Ireland.

DAA, which runs airports at Dublin and Cork, said air traffic control services are the responsibility of the IAA as is monitoring drone use.

“The safety and security of passengers, staff and other airport users is Dublin Airport’s key priority, but for operational reasons, we never comment on specific security matters,” it said.

The IAA declined to comment on security protocols and the Defence Forces, which usually assists civilian authorities in emergency situations, did not comment.

“The recent reported events in the UK have understandably caused some public concern,” the Department of Transport said. “The Minister has been reassured that there are already strong regulatory provisions in place in Ireland, which control and restrict the use of drones.”

IAA regulations prohibit the use of drones within 5km of airports or within controlled airspace.