By Claudia Savage and Cillian Sherlock, PA
New technology that can control and take down drones will help to prevent flight disruption, according to the head of Dublin and Cork airports.
Dublin airport has been closed six times in 2023 as a result of drones entering the airspace, causing diversions of multiple flights and thousands of passengers to be delayed.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Kenny Jacobs, chief executive of airport operator DAA, acknowledged that drone problems have been ongoing for several weeks.
“We welcome the decision taken by the state to give us authority to operate a drone effector piece of technology that allows you to take control of and bring down a drone,” said Mr Jacobs.
Mr Jacobs stressed that this technology would help prevent closures of Dublin airport as a result of drone activity.
“I would expect much less disruption and then if you do have disruption it will be much shorter because we’re able to detect the drone and take control of it,” he said.
“Then either send it back where it came from or just control it and bring it down in a controlled fashion.”
Mr Jacobs highlighted that the new system to prevent drones impacting travel is not a fail-safe solution.
“The drone effector technology is proven technology that does work,” he said.
“That’s the best thing that we can do, it’s not 100 per cent proof, so everybody needs to be aware of that, so we still need anybody spotting a drone to ring 999.
“This is illegal, it has always been illegal and no one should fly a drone within five kilometres of Dublin airport, or any airport.”
The new system is set to be operational in a number of weeks, a faster installation than is typical for the drone-deterring tech.
“We have placed an order and I expect that we will be operational in a matter of weeks,” Mr Jacobs said.
“Other airports have taken about three to four months to do this, we will take three to four weeks to do this from the Government passing that statutory instrument.
“We will take responsibility for operating that drone effector technology that will sit beside the drone detection system that we have and that will give us another layer of protection.”
Mr Jacobs has also called on the Government to do more to prevent the impact of drones in Irish airspace.
“We think the Government is going to continue to explore how this should be done in the medium term because there are other airports in Ireland than Dublin, there are other vital infrastructure pieces that need to be protected,” he said.
“Ultimately the long-term situation is probably with An Garda Siochana or Defence because we need a drone defence system that goes beyond Dublin airport.”
Chief Executive of Ryanair Eddie Wilson also expressed discontent at the extent of the disturbance drones were able to have on Irish air travel.
“It’s unacceptable that a major airport in Europe has been closed because of drones, and hopefully there won’t be any more interruptions between now and when the new systems are operational,” he said.
“We’ve got to keep costs low here, this Island has economic recovery, connectivity, jobs because the largest airline in Europe happens to come from this neighbourhood.”
Mr Wilson and Mr Jacobs’ comments came at a press conference on Tuesday when Ryanair announced its Dublin schedule for summer 2023 with 14 new destinations including Venice, Stockholm, Leipzig and Kos.