For the third time in four days, flights have been diverted at Dublin Airport after sightings of a drone on the airfield.
On Friday the 3rd February 2023, a number of Ryanair flights had been diverted to Shannon. Then on Saturday the 4th of February 2023, Dublin Airport said that its flight operations were suspended for about 40 minutes due to safety concerns after further confirmed drone sightings on the airfield. The problems continued on Monday the 6th February when flight oeprations were again suspended for about 40 minutes and resumed at 19:45 local time.
This activity is illegal and flying a drone within 5km (3 miles) of an airport in Ireland is illegal. Laws in the UK are similar and across the world, flying a drone within controlled airspace isn't just illegal but poses a serious threat to public safety. While operational shutdowns of 10-40 minutes might not sounds like a major issue, it is important to remember that the movements of aircraft are precisely scheduled (especially at international airports) and the fuel loads are carefully calculated; therefore even the briefest of disruptions can wreak havoc.
Airline Ryanair condemned the situation as unaccpetable and urged the Irish Government to act. Government ministers have vowed to tackle the issue of drones disrupting flights at Dublin Airport. On Tuesday the 7th February, Minister fo Transport Eamon Ryan and MInister of State Jack Chambers met with the operator of Dublin Airport, the Irish Aviation Authority, the Department of Justice, and An Garda Síochána. After the meeting, the ministers reiterated in a statement that they take this issue very seriously and will work closely with relevant state bdoies to ensure that the illegal use of drones is tackled effectively. Condemning the "unacceptable disruption to passengers arising from the incidents over the weekend", the ministers sadi that all the relevant bodies were committed to working togetehr to ensure a rapid and effective response to such incidents.
What can they do?
Dublin Airport already has a drone deteciton system in oepration that gives early warning of illegal drone activity and informatino garnered form this system is being used to pursue enforcement activity, including prosecution, which can carry a sentence of up to seven years on conviction. Early warning and drone tracking systems allow Air Traffic Control to increase safety to the planes in the air but this does not protect those on the ground and it doesn't stop the activity of the drone. Additionally, it will have gathered very little information about the drone itself and where it came from. Gatwick Airport had all the cutting edge technology available to it during its 36 hour drone ordeal in December 2018 and, to this day, no one has been prosecuted.
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