Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Tom Tuite

Gardaí have a month to get directions from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for the case of a man accused of flying a drone into a “critical area” of Dublin Airport.

In February, gardaí arrested Ainis Guzauskus (41), of Ridgewood Close, Swords, Dublin, and charged him under Section 43 of the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1988.

The alleged offence is knowingly causing a false alarm by flying an unmanned aerial system (drone) into the critical area of Dublin Airport at Naul Road, which interfered with the operation of an aerodrome on July 2nd, 2022.

Bail with conditions was granted, and he faced his third appearance at Dublin District Court. However, Judge Brendan O’Reilly noted gardaí needed more time to get the DPP’s directions, and the court sergeant asked to grant a four-week adjournment.

Judge O’Reilly recorded that the case was now peremptory against the State, meaning the prosecution must have the directions on the next date. He ordered the accused to appear again on June 6th.

He remains subject to terms, including a ban on flying drones and going within 2km of the airport. At his first hearing on February 21st, Garda Paul Murphy told the court that the accused “made no reply to the charge after caution”.

Garda Murphy said the accused lived 2km from the airport, “as the crow flies,” or it was a 2.5km drive.

The court has heard the accused lived in Ireland for 14 years and did not require an interpreter.

Mr Guzauskus, yet to indicate a plea, must live at his current residence and notify gardaí of any address change.

In addition, he had to surrender his passport, provide a contact phone number and always be contactable.

He must not leave the State without the court’s permission and not to “use, own or fly any drone in the State, at any time, for anywhere or participate in any way with flying of drones”.

The final condition states not to go within 2km of Dublin Airport without garda permission.

It is the second case involving alleged unlawful drone flights too close to the airport to come before the courts recently.

In an unrelated prosecution, Eric Brills (50), of Holywell Dale, Swords, Dublin, was charged earlier.

It is alleged that he unlawfully and intentionally interfered with the operation of air navigation facilities at Dublin Airport by operating a drone in the 300-metre critical area, on January 24th, at Naul Road, Cloghran, Co Dublin, such act being likely to interfere with the safety of aircraft in flight.

He was granted bail and is due in court later this month to indicate a plea. In his case, the DPP consented to “summary disposal on a guilty plea” at the District Court level. Otherwise, he would face the Circuit Court, which has broader sentencing powers

It is illegal to fly drones within 5km of the airport – drones over a certain size must be registered, and each device has a unique digital fingerprint for identification.

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