A group of experts must conduct a detailed risk assessment of the drone threat around our airports after a meeting with the Minister of Transport.
Shane Ross convened a meeting of the Threat and Risk Group of National Civil Aviation following drone incidents in the United Kingdom that immobilized aircraft at Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
This comes as Fianna Fáil called on the government to prioritize legislation to regulate the use of drones given the recent disruptions at British airports, which affected thousands of passengers before and after Christmas.
After meeting with the group of experts, which includes representatives from all relevant government departments and state authorities, airports and airlines, Mr. Ross went on reassured that there are already strict regulations in Ireland, which control and restrict the use of drones.
According to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), more than 11,000 drones are registered in Ireland.
Drone users are not allowed to drive drones near airports as there is already a five kilometer exclusion zone.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport said there were also operational protocols in place to combat the illicit activities of drones at airports, which serve to coordinate airport authority actions, control air traffic and An Garda Síochána.
However, at the meeting yesterday, the group of experts informed the minister that he would conduct a new and detailed risk assessment in the coming weeks – in accordance with established practice – so to indicate any other necessary measures to avoid any risk.
James Lawless, Fianna Fáil's spokesperson for science, technology, research and development, also called on the government to immediately advance the 2017 unmanned small aircraft (Drones) bill, which is currently in the second phase to Dáil Éireann.
Mr. Lawless said, "Minister Ross has acknowledged that what happened recently in the UK could happen here in Ireland. He convened a meeting of the National Civil Aviation Threat and Risk Group to discuss Irish vigilance in this area.
"UAVs offer many exciting opportunities for personal and commercial use.
But recently, we have seen a more sinister side with widespread disruption of travel, huge financial losses and a potential risk of death.
He stated that his bill had been introduced for the first time two years ago but that he was making his way into the Oireachtas, adding that drones being freely available and largely untraceable, they must be fully regulated.
"If the government really wanted to protect the Irish airspace from this threat, it would work with existing legislation at its disposal," said Lawless.
"It is clear that drones can provide many benefits, but in the wrong hands, they are literally weapons.
Legislation and a framework for their use are needed. I call on the government to advance my bill and follow it throughout the legislative process, "said Mr. Lawless.
Senator Neale Richmond, of Fine Gael, also said that it was essential that the public be assured that we are able to deal with any potential disruption of drones at Irish airports.
"The economic and human cost of these drone attacks has been enormous, and of course many Irish travelers are worried that the same thing will happen here," he said.