Dublin Airport drone disruptors will be subject to arrest, Minister for Transport warns

Operations suspended several times over bank holiday weekend due to drone sightings near airfield

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has warned that people operating drones around Dublin Airport will be subject to arrest and face having the Garda “coming down heavy” on them.

Operations were disrupted at Dublin Airport several times over the bank holiday weekend after drones were spotted. This led to criticism from Ryanair, with the carrier calling for “immediate action” from Mr Ryan, saying thousands of passengers had their travel plans disrupted.

“It’s against the law, it’s causing huge disruption,” Mr Ryan said on his way into a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

Asked about whether systems to counteract drone activity could be put in place, he said his department was “sitting down with the airport” to look at the various mechanisms available but said it was hard to do because of the scale of the airport and the size of drones.


“The guards also have a particular role, anyone doing this obviously [is] subject to arrest, and that’s the best way of stopping it, people realising that if they are, they’re taking a huge risk with their own liberty.”

Flights were disrupted on Monday for a third time in recent days, with at least three aircraft diverted to Belfast and Shannon following the latest incident.

Mr Ryan and Minister of State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers convened a meeting on Tuesday evening at which they were briefed on recent incidents at Dublin Airport and ongoing efforts to address illegal use of drones in the vicinity of the airport. The Ministers met representatives from DAA, the Irish Aviation Authority, the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána.

Under current legislation, a drone cannot operate within 5km of an aerodrome or airport and cannot be used over the heads of an assembly of people, over urban areas or in restricted areas such as military installations or prisons. A drone is not allowed to fly higher than 120m (394ft) or more than 300m (984ft) from its operator.

‘Catastrophic failure’

Meanwhile, aviation expert and former Air Corps Lieut Col Kevin Byrne has warned that drones could cause “catastrophic failure” to an aircraft engine.

Mr Byrne told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that the disruption of flights at the airport over the weekend was “just unbelievable”.

There are more than 40,000 registered drone users in the State and the system is very well administered by the Irish Aviation Authority, he said.

“The people doing this are not in that field at all,” said Mr Byrne. “The effects of an aircraft taking off and ingesting one of these things would be extremely serious. It would probably lose the engine because unlike the birds, this thing is made of metal and plastic. It will cause a catastrophic failure of an engine. And we just can’t have that. It’s criminal. It should be stopped.”

Anti-drone measures are very difficult to implement, said Mr Byrne, as drones are small and nimble.

“I believe they [the drones] were seen after dark only because they’ve got a flashing light, you see. So that’s sort of giving the game away. But also you’ve got people in the airport who are trained, the airport police, An Garda Síochána, airport fire crew, all of whom would be skilled, only too eager to help with a set of binoculars.”

Drones could not be shot down as they are small and nimble and the bullets could end up in nearby neighbourhoods.

While a Garda helicopter could possibly track a drone, it would not be feasible to have one on standby permanently, said Mr Byrne.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times