Give the army and gardaí the power and technology to fight the drone threat
According to the founder of regional airline Aer Lingus, the Defense Forces and An Garda Síochána need forces and better technology to counter the escalating drone threat.
ádraig Ó Céidigh, who is also a former independent senator, said legislation protecting society from the dangers of drones should have been implemented seven years ago when he first raised concerns about it in the Seanad.
The Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA) also raised major concerns about drones with industry bodies back in 2017, but “no action has been taken,” said its President, Captain Evan Cullen.
New legislation is being discussed in the cabinet to prevent drones from flying into restricted airspace and over large public gatherings.
These proposed new laws “cannot come soon enough” to protect not just pilots but Irish society as a whole, Mr Ó Céidigh said.
“What needs to be done, and it needs to be done now, is that the Gardaí and the Army must be given the resources to disrupt drone signals by non-kinetic means. That basically means giving the gardaí or army the power through legislation and technology to take control of drones that enter airspace where they are not allowed,” he said.
“It’s not just airports that we should be worried about. It’s every big open air outdoor pitch, like this weekend’s Ireland-England rugby game. There could and should be laws and technology to prevent a drone from flying over the stadium, rather than just declaring it a “no-fly zone”.
“Technology is currently being developed that will make it possible to erect a ‘signal fence’ around a stadium, preventing drone entry. Just as we have road traffic regulations, we also need rules for drones.”
Mr Ó Céidigh said it was now “urgent” for the Government to introduce new legislation to give Gardaí and the Defense Forces the power to use anti-drone technology.
“The last thing we want is for a drone to be disabled and fall out of the sky. It’s about giving law enforcement agencies powers to take control of drones when they fly into areas where they’re not allowed. This technology is already in use in many other European countries. The last thing we want are drones falling out of the sky,” he said.
“There is technology we need to implement that should have been in place years ago. This is not a criticism of the government, it is about a lack of common thinking from the Department of Transportation and other government departments.”
A security source said it was “a matter for the government” over the proposed new laws, but said An Garda Síochána and the Defense Forces are fully prepared to act appropriately “if and when” new laws are enacted that extend their powers strengthen.
IALPA President Captain Cullen said the lack of government action on drones was “very frustrating” and he said emergency legislation was needed.
He said geofencing – a technology that uses GPS to create virtual boundaries around a physical location – is long overdue in protected airspace and already exists in many other countries.
Drones are becoming increasingly popular and there is a real risk one could be flown into an airplane’s windshield, most likely killing the pilot and jeopardizing the entire flight, he said.
“The government has a duty of care to the public. We are disappointed that nothing has been done yet, we have raised this with the government since 2017. It feels like a terrible accident waiting to happen,” he said.
Captain Cullen said only 10 drones – around 6,000 – were registered in Ireland. The remaining 90 pieces were not. “There must be regulations for the providers of drones [so] that they are not allowed to sell a drone unless the buyer not only registers them, but they also register with the Irish Aviation Authority and receive training,” he said.
There has been a sharp increase in drones flying near Dublin Airport in recent months, leading to shutdowns.
Mr Ó Céidigh pointed out that while drones can be dangerous, they can also be used for very positive purposes. “Coillte is successfully using drones to perform aerial photography in forestry. There are also instances where drones are being used to deliver vital medicines like insulin. There are many benefits that drones can bring to society as a whole. There just needs to be more powers to regulate them and protect society,” he said.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/give-the-army-and-gardai-the-powers-and-technology-to-combat-the-menace-of-drones-42393796.html Give the army and gardaí the power and technology to fight the drone threat