Drone pilot loses certificate over ‘unauthorised flight’ over Ed Sheeran Cork gig

The Irish Aviation Authority said in doing so, the operator put the safety of the public at risk by flying the device in restricted airspace over the Cork GAA stadium
Drone pilot loses certificate over ‘unauthorised flight’ over Ed Sheeran Cork gig

Ed Sheeran on stage at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last month. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has issued a warning to drone operators about being aware of flight rules and regulations after it revoked a drone pilot's operator's certificate for conducting an “unauthorised flight” near Páirc Uí Chaoimh during one of Ed Sheeran's concerts last month.

The agency responsible for the regulation and safety of aviation in Ireland said by flying the drone in restricted airspace close to the Cork GAA stadium, the operator put the safety of the public at risk.

But the breach was deemed to be unintentional and was not malicious, it said.

It did not identify the drone operator and an IAA spokesman said it would not be doing so.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, the IAA posted a spectacular aerial photograph of fireworks exploding high above the stadium towards the end of one of Sheeran’s concerts last month.

The image was captured by a drone which was flown just west of the city end of the stadium, looking downriver towards Cork Harbour.

The IAA said the drone flight was conducted without approval in an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) restricted airspace. 

There is a complete drone no-fly zone in a 4.5km radius red zone around Cork Airport. Páirc Uí Chaoimh lies just outside that no-fly zone but within a larger amber zone where drone flights are only permitted up to 15m in height.

“This restriction is there to ensure the safety of aircraft flying into and out of Cork Airport. In this instance the operator’s remote pilot certificate was revoked,” the IAA said.

IAA drone manager, Enda Walsh, told the Irish Examiner that the agency launched an investigation into the incident on foot of a report made through the online portal aviationreporting.eu.

He said the IAA detained the drone involved to review the imagery captured by its camera and then interviewed the operator under caution. 

"We determined that the non-compliance was not intentional nor malicious," he said. 

"The individual’s remote pilot certificate was revoked, and they were directed not to operate a drone until they obtained the necessary training and certification for the relevant category of operation."

It is understood that the operator had a basic level of drone training, had launched the drone from a safe location, and was safety conscious for the duration of the flight but did not have the relevant training or the required approvals to operate a drone for this specific reason in that particular area at that time.

Mr Walsh said the IAA's investigation of the matter serves as a reminder to drone operators of how seriously the IAA takes such incidents, and the steps it will take to enforce new EU regulations on drone operations which have been in place since early 2021.

It is understood that another drone operator, with full licensing, approvals and permissions, was flying a device during the concerts to capture official footage.

You can get information on the regulations governing drones in Ireland on the Irish Aviation Authority website.

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