Irish expert group to hold special meeting over drone activity concerns

Flights have been recently affected at London's Heathrow and Gatwick Aairports

Irish expert group to hold special meeting over drone activity concerns

Picture by: John Stillwell/PA Wire/PA Images

Transport Minister Shane Ross has called a special meeting of the National Civil Aviation Threat and Risk Group over recent drone activity.

The group, which meets on Thursday, will assess and advise Minister Ross on recent incidents in the UK.

Flights were affected at London's Heathrow Airport on Tuesday, after a reported drone sighting.

All departures were stopped for a time as a precautionary measure while an investigation was carried out.

This followed days of flight disruption just before Christmas at neighbouring Gatwick Airport.

A a drone was repeatedly flown near the runway between December 19th and 21st.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled as a result.

The group will be chaired by the Department of Transport and involves the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the State airports, Irish airlines, the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces.

However Minister Ross has said the likelihood of a drone attack here is "low".

The Department of Transport said "appropriate action" will be taken if it is deemed further steps are required to improve how the State can respond to the threat of future illegal drone activity around Irish airports.

Minister Ross added: "There are already strict rules in Ireland around the use of drones, including an exclusion zone of five kilometres around airports.

"The misuse of drones is an offence, and flying drones in controlled Irish airspace or within five kilometres of an airport is a very serious matter.

"I have asked my department to convene at short notice a special meeting of an expert industry group to assess recent events and advise me on how we are prepared at our own airports and whether there are further things which can be done."