Saturday 23 March 2019

Wing and a prayer: No qualifications or licence needed to pilot a drone

Keep smiling: Canadian Phil O’Connor, who lives in Dublin, and his son Stephen (2) keep up their spirits at the airport after his flight was delayed. Photo: Mark Condren
Keep smiling: Canadian Phil O’Connor, who lives in Dublin, and his son Stephen (2) keep up their spirits at the airport after his flight was delayed. Photo: Mark Condren
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

In Ireland you don't need a licence or qualifications to fly a drone. You simply need to register it with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). It's a bit like getting a dog licence, but cheaper.

But because registering them is a manual process online after you buy the drone, it's a fair bet many people never bother.

So while the IAA says there are more than 11,000 drones in Ireland, the real figure is probably much higher. Besides, you only strictly have to register your drone if it weighs over 1kg.

The potential for catastrophic damage from a €500 consumer toy is very real. We don't yet know what the effects, for example, of a drone getting into an airplane's engine would be.

Today's typical consumer drone has a range of up to 4km from its remote controller.

Almost all such drones now have powerful video cameras onboard, with live footage beamed back to the user's smartphone or tablet.

So you don't need to be looking up in the sky to fly it, observable by patrolling police. You can steer it while being out of sight, hidden behind a bush, a house, or anything else, several kilometres away.

In the Gatwick incident last December, police suggested the Gatwick drone was not a consumer model. But that doesn't mean a consumer drone could not cause damage or disruption.

Irish Independent

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