Dublin Airport drone disruptions: Eamon Ryan says anti-drone technology will be introduced ‘as quickly as can be done safely’

Minister for Transport rejects claim by Michael O’Leary that Government just needs to give DAA permission to bring down drones

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said that technology with the capability of bringing down drones will be introduced as quickly as can be done safely. Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s News at One, Mr Ryan rejected claims by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary that all that was required was for the Government to give the Dublin Airport Authority the go-ahead to use the technology.

“It is not as simple as Michael O’Leary says,” Mr Ryan said.

The airport would need the right equipment to tackle the issue, he said. “We want to make sure that we get it right,” he said.

Mr Ryan said he will bring a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday but that it would take a number of weeks to acquire the necessary equipment.


In the meantime his department would be looking at other measures that could assist in managing traffic at the airport and avoid disruption in the case of a drone sighting.

Mr Ryan said the people who operated drones at the airport wanted attention. He agreed the issue should have been tackled “quicker”, but said his focus had been on trying to keep the airport open following the pandemic.

He said any actions had to be taken carefully to ensure they did not have an impact on aviation. Once Cabinet gives approval, the first step will be to purchase the necessary equipment and then a decision will have to be taken on who will deploy the new technology, he said. A number of suppliers are being considered.

Mr Ryan pointed out that anti-drone technology was continually evolving and the Government wanted to ensure that Dublin Airport had the best equipment available.

Earlier a spokesperson for Dublin Airport operator DAA warned that continued drone disruptions could have an impact on any planned visit of US President Joe Biden to Ireland.

Graeme McQueen, its media relations manager, told RTÉ Radio’s Today show that while drone activity at present was focused on Dublin Airport, it could happen at any airport in the State. There have been unconfirmed reports that Mr Biden is planning a visit to Ireland in April to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

“It could happen to any big event. But Joe Biden is potentially coming to the country. These are big events that drones could impact. So the sooner that we get legislation and the mechanisms in place to take drones down the sky, the better for everyone.

“We’ve looked loosely at potential solutions and we’ve passed these on to the Government. But at the moment, we could have all these solutions sitting on our desk right now, but we’re not able to use them because we don’t have the legislation. We’ve got a system in place that would allow us to do that.

“So for the moment, you know, we’re looking at the skies all the time. We’ve got our drone system where we see a drone, we can act on it. We need to pause operations like last night. But we don’t have the ability to use any of those tools and equipment in order to bring the drones down.”

Earlier, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said that there is no need for legislation to allow the use of anti-drone technology at Dublin Airport.

The Minister for Transport should make a decision to allow the use of such technology by Dublin Airport Authority, he said, adding that the Minister “just needs to empower” the airport authority.

“He should make a decision to take drones down. Who’s going to sue him? The drone operators?”

Most airports in Europe have anti-drone technology, but Eamon Ryan appeared not to be prepared to take action, Mr O’Leary told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.

“It’s time for the Minister to take action or to resign. He is incompetent,” claimed Mr O’Leary.

“He just needs to act. If he is not prepared to act then he should resign and retire to the leafy suburbs of Ranelagh and worry about bicycles.”

Dublin Airport was forced to temporarily suspend flights for half an hour on Thursday evening due to drone activity in the vicinity of the airfield. It was the sixth such suspension in

When asked about the tone of the meeting the Minister, Mr McQueen said that the broad feeling was one of frustration. Drone disruptions were “hugely inconveniencing” for passengers.

“What we heard in the message in the meeting today was a fresh commitment that we’re going to get to grips with this. The feedback we got this morning was that the Minister is absolutely going to make something happen and hopefully we can get rid of drones as an issue at Dublin Airport.”

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath said: “This is reckless behaviour that is endangering the lives of passengers and crew on airlines and it needs to be brought to an end.

“We recognise that more needs to be done because while we have drone detection technology in operation at Dublin Airport, what we don’t have currently is anti-drone technology that would, in effect, bring them down.”

Mr McGrath said Mr Ryan would finalise his plans for Cabinet over the weekend.

“I deeply regret that this has occurred now on six occasions and we apologise to all of the passengers who have been inconvenienced. We will bring an end to this. And all of us across Government will work with Minister Ryan to make sure that this is comprehensively dealt with as a priority across all of Government, because it needs to be done quickly.”

The DAA reiterated that it currently has drone detection technology, which allows it to detect drones within a 5km radius of the airport. Currently the State does not have counter-drone technology, which the DAA says would require new laws and for an organ of the State to be tasked with enforcing.

Meanwhile, Labour TD Duncan Smith has said that legislation to deal with drone activity at Dublin Airport could be passed within “a couple of days”.

Mr Smith, who represents the constituency in which Dublin Airport is located, told RTÉ Radio’s Today show that everyone in the aviation industry, including workers and customers at Dublin Airport wanted to see action on the issue.

“We do need legislation, though it doesn’t have to be a protracted process. We can get legislation through very, very quickly in a matter of a couple of days this week in the Dáil, if needs be. And that’s what I want to see, and I think that’s something that we can deliver.”

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter