Thursday 17 October 2019

'We're as prepared as we can be' - Ross responds to drone threat as flights resume at Dublin Airport after earlier sighting

  • Some flights suspended and knock-on delays expected
  • Gardai and other State agencies were 'informed of the incident immediately'
Photo: Mark Condren
Photo: Mark Condren
A sign warning of drone uses after a confirmed drone sighting forced the temporary suspension of operations at Dublin Airport. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Dublin Airport (Stock picture)
Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Rachel Farrell, Amy Molloy and Ryan Nugent

Transport Minister Shane Ross has said “we’ve done what’s prudent” by temporarily suspending flights from Dublin Airport over a drone sighting.

Flights at Dublin Airport have resumed after operations were earlier suspended when a drone was spotted over the airfield.

A spokesperson for the airport confirmed on Twitter that operations were suspended "for safety reasons".

However, the airport confirmed shortly after noon that flights had resumed. 

Mr Ross described the incident as “a matter of concern” but said the fact the airport reopened swiftly is “encouraging”.

“The existing arrangements are in fact that the safety of passengers will be most important, our priority, and that’s why the airport’s been closed,” he said.

Phil O Connor from Canada and living in Dublin pictured with his son Stephen (2) at Dublin Airport after his flight had to go into a holding zone after a confirmed drone sighting Pic:Mark Condren
Phil O Connor from Canada and living in Dublin pictured with his son Stephen (2) at Dublin Airport after his flight had to go into a holding zone after a confirmed drone sighting Pic:Mark Condren

Mr Ross said the threat risk group on drones will be sitting again next week.

He added that “we’re as prepared as we can be”.

A spokesperson for DAA said a pilot reported a drone sighting to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), which operates air traffic control at Dublin Airport, at about 11.30am.

"A 30-minute suspension of flights was implemented by air traffic control at that point, which is the agreed procedure in such cases. As there were no further drone sighting within the 30-minute suspension period, Dublin Airport resumed flight operations shortly after noon," the spokesperson added.

"The Gardai and other State agencies were informed of the incident immediately. It is illegal to fly drones within five kilometres of an airport in the State and all drones that weigh more than 1kg must be registered with the IAA.

"The safety and security of airport users is daa’s key priority at all times and staff at Dublin Airport, the IAA, and other agencies continue to remain vigilant in relation to drone activity in the vicinity of the airport.

"Three flights were diverted due the suspension of flight operations and there will also be some knock-on delays to flights today."

Aer Lingus has advised passengers to check for potential delays this afternoon.

"Some delays may be experienced today as a result, but we'll be doing everything possible to minimise these," a spokesperson said on Twitter.

Last year, thousands of passengers were hit with delays after flights were suspended at Gatwick Airport over drone sightings.

Two drones were spotted flying near its airfield, triggering the biggest disruption to its operations since a volcanic ash cloud grounded flights in 2010.

Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on transport Robert Troy this afternoon said that the Minister for Transport must "wake up to the threat of drones".

"In the first instance I am glad that the disruption to flights in Dublin Airport was kept to a minimum and that all flights have resumed, however let there be no doubt about it, it could have been much more chaotic.

"Minister Ross’s previous comments that the likelihood of a drone attack in Ireland was ‘low’ clearly shows his lack of understanding of the seriousness of the issue.

"Following the drone sightings at Gatwick Airport, he was at pains to stress that the regulatory provisions in place in Ireland, which control and restrict the use of drones were stronger than those of the UK.

“His dismissive attitude and the failure of the Government to progress the Fianna Fáil Bill to regulate drone usage which was brought forward by my Party colleague James Lawless, will lead to further disruptions such as was seen in Dublin Airport today.

"Having our airspace compromised by the threat of drones is not something they can continue to ignore."

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

Mr Ross previously said: "There are already strict rules in Ireland around the use of drones, including an exclusion zone of 5 kilometres around airports.

"The misuse of drones is an offence, and flying drones in controlled Irish airspace or within 5 kilometres of an airport is a very serious matter."

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