Cork Airport is the first Irish airport to launch a ‘no drone zone’ as part of a crackdown on rogue drone operators.
It is now rolling out an awareness campaign to inform people that it is illegal to operate a drone within 4.5km of the airfield. Other State airports are expected to follow suit.
It has also emerged that the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the body responsible for air safety regulation, has investigated 20 complaints about potentially hazardous drone flights since the start of the year.
Once investigated, the IAA said it has the power to refer cases to gardaí, which could, in turn, lead to criminal prosecutions.
The details emerged yesterday as Cork Airport management unveiled warning signs on the perimeter fences near the runway thresholds advising people of the “no drone zone”, which has been legally in effect since the start of the year.
The initiative was developed by the airport’s airside safety lead, Nathan Wall. He said a drone incident over Dubai Airport forced the closure of the airport for 90 minutes recently, and a drone strike with a passenger jet over London earlier this year could have had devastating consequences.
“We are all aware of how laser lights have been shone at pilots. We would have concerns that drones near airports could be the next craze.”
The airport’s head of operations, Ciaran Carton, said that while there have been no drone issues around the airfield, they have decided to take a proactive approach and educate drone users on responsible drone usage.
“A similar approach is likely to be adopted in other airports,” said Mr Carton.
Cathal MacCriostail, IAA manager of airspace and navigation, praised the airport for the initiative.
“The critical phases of flight are when an aircraft is arriving or departing from an airport,” he said. “If you’ve got a drone operating nearby, it could be catastrophic if there was a collision with a drone during these phases of flight. It is the responsibility of users to ensure the safety of the public when flying drones. It is also their responsibility to familiarise themselves with the regulations.”
There has been an explosion of drone ownership in Ireland in recent years, with some 5,500 small unmanned aircraft (SUA), which includes model aircraft and drones, registered with the IAA since the introduction of new laws and regulations last year.
By law users must register SUAs over 1kg with the IAA. They can be operated in unrestricted airspace up to a height of 50ft as long as they are not causing a hazard. However, operators of drones between 4kg and 25kg must get specialist training and a licence. They must also seek permission from the IAA to operate outside of certain regulation limits.
There are about 110 registered and trained commercial drone operators in Ireland today.
From a hobby flight over Cork City to a business which has helped promote Ireland around the world — it’s been a remarkable journey for drone operator, Raymond Fogarty.
Raymond shot to fame when his stunning drone flight over Cork city centre went viral in 2014 after it featured in the Irish Examiner.
He said he recorded it at a time when flying drones was just a past-time, and when he wasn’t aware of strict rules governing such aircraft, and before the introduction of new laws. But the response to his footage prompted him to establish his own commercial drone business, AirCam Ireland. He is now one of 110 registered and licensed commercial drone operators in Ireland.
He has since been hired to shoot promotional videos for Fáilte Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way, and more recently, a promotional video for Cork Airport. The stunning airfield footage, shot at sunrise under strict safety conditions approved by the airport and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), helped the airport in its bid to secure a major aviation conference in the city.
Raymond said he was delighted to help promote Cork Airport’s new “no drone zone” awareness campaign. But he said there was a huge onus on drone users to educate themselves.
“I operate drones on a commercial basis and I am approved by the IAA and also fully insured,” he said.
“From my experience, the majority of commercial users are up to speed. There has been a spike in the recreational use of drones and that’s fantastic, but it does lead to problems.
“Drones are considered unmanned aircraft and there are strict regulations around their use — a simple example is making sure you have the permission of the landowner where you are taking off or landing the drone. Also, there have been dangerous situations where drones are being flown too close to people or built-up areas.”
He encouraged anyone thinking of buying or flying a drone to visit the drone section on www.iaa.ie for details on the regulations.
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