The Irish Air Corps and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) are unprepared for the mounting danger posed by drones according to a Threat Analysis document released by the Irish military and reported in the Irish Times newspaper.
The research surveyed 86 Air Corps fixed-wing and helicopter pilots about the state response to drone safety. Less than a third said they believed the Air Corps was adequately prepared to deal with the drone industry according to the newspaper. Just under a quarter believed air traffic control is able to protect flights from the drone threat and 13 per cent of pilots felt they were receiving adequate education on the issue. Less than a third of pilots considered themselves well-informed on the drone industry. The figure for helicopter pilots, who are far more likely to encounter drones, was just 36 per cent. A little over 40 per cent said they felt well-informed on drone regulations.
There are 14,330 large, privately-owned drones registered in Ireland, with an average of 250 new drones registered every month since June. There are also many more devices which do not require registration with the IAA because they weigh less than 1kg.
A third of pilots said they have encountered drones operating while flying. Many of these were helicopter pilots who operate at a lower altitude than fixed wing pilots. All helicopter pilots and two thirds of all pilots said they had heard a colleague discuss encounters with drones.
There have been several recent incidents of drones disrupting civilian and military flight operations. In February, flights at Dublin Airport were briefly suspended following a drone sighting. This followed a series of similar incidents at London’s Gatwick Airport.
The study recommended measures “to combat a quickly evolving and uncontrolled RPAS market” including coordinated training across the Air Corps, IAA and the Garda. It is also advised universal drone registration by the IAA “in the interest of traceability”.
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