Gardaí receive nearly 100 complaints over drones

Almost 8,000 drones have been registered here and their use has generated nearly 100 complaints to gardaí. So far there has been one successful prosecution under the Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) and Rockets Order, which came into force at the end of 2015, writes Joyce Fegan.

The new order requires all drones weighing over 1kg to be registered with the Irish Aviation Authority.

Drones are not allowed fly any closer than 5km to an aerodrome and no higher than 122m above ground level. They are banned from flying over urban areas, an assembly of people or in civil or military controlled airspace. As well as registering more than 7,500 drones, the authority has issued special permission licences and pilot certificates.

“Approximately 130 drone operators have been licenced with special permission to operate drones. There are six registered training centres providing qualified examinations for those seeking specific operating permission and pilot competency certificates. There are 170 pilot competency cert holders,” said a spokesperson.

While the authority is responsible for the control and registration of drones, the power to penalise for unauthorised use lies with the judiciary and gardaí.

Gardaí receive nearly 100 complaints over drones

A Garda spokesman said between December 21, 2015, and August 9, 2017, they had had 94 complaints. While there has been one successful prosecution under the order in this time period, no details were made available.

However, the authority said drone users may contravene other laws such as privacy and data protection.

“There may be privacy or trespass laws or other legal issues, which need to be taken into consideration by a person operating a drone,” the spokesman said.

The office of the Data Protection Commissioner said there are no active complaints over drone usage but it had had about 10 queries. It advises that drones fitted with different technologies for data collection including cameras, thermal imaging, GPS, altimeter, motion, radio frequency equipment, and other sensors cannot be used for recording faces or other personal information.

“It is possible that use of such aircraft may cause privacy concerns among the public as a result of equipment which may be added to the drones. This may include sensors of various types including smart cameras, specific sensors, detection equipment and radio- frequency equipment”.

The authority said it encourages operators to take a course in the use of drones.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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