It could be the end of 2025 before European recommendations on how to deal with drone incursions at airports are implemented in Ireland.
Passengers at Dublin Airport have experienced several days of disruption due to rogue drones being flown near the airfield, which could have potentially disastrous consequences in the event of a collision, and Aer Lingus has said a new Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) safety plan needs to be brought into force immediately.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), published guidelines in 2021 for hundreds of airports across the region for a structured approach to tackling unauthorised drone activity in their vicinity.
Those guidelines include recommendations that relevant agencies and operators should consider the use of “detection and neutralisation technologies” to deal with incursions.
The IAA noted in its new 2023 to 2025 safety plan that it will “work with aircraft operators, airport operators and ANSP’s (Air Navigation Service Providers) to address the risks of drone infringements at aerodromes in accordance EASA guidance”.
But it says the target date for doing so is the final quarter of 2025.
And while there are laws already in place that require drones to be registered by their owners, the IAA notes in its new safety plan that just under 6,700 drone operators are licensed. That’s despite the huge popularity of drones both for recreational and professional use.
Any person operating a drone weighing more than 250g, or which has a camera, must under the law register as an operator.
Apart from inconveniencing passengers and airlines, drone activity near an airport could have far worse impact. A collision between a drone and airborne aircraft could have potentially fatal consequences both for passengers and people on the ground.
Aer Lingus said that the new IAA safety plan needs to be brought into force immediately.
“The Plan for Aviation Safety which contains actions to address the risks of drone infringements, and which has already been published, must be progressed as a matter of urgency,” said a spokesperson for the airline
“The severe disruption imposed on passengers, airlines and other stakeholders is unacceptable and measures to address the drone issue must be now expedited in order to put a halt to this disruption,” they added.
The IAA has worked to implement a number of measures to address increased drone usage, including official recognition for a number of firms that provide training modules for drone operators.
Dublin Airport – which is operated by the DAA – already has a drone detection system in place. It did not disclose the type of system it uses. But drone detection typically involves the use of small radar systems that don’t interfere with existing critical technology at airports. They are designed to detect distinguish birds from drones, for example.
The illegal drone activity at Dublin Airport over the past number of days is likely to have cost the aviation industry well over €1m.
Airport operations at the capital’s international gateway were suspended for 40 minutes on Monday and were also suspended over the weekend after unauthorised drone activity was detected near the airfield.
The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has noted that the unscheduled closure of a runway can cost airports as much as €1m every hour.