How did drones disrupt Dublin Airport?
Illegal drone activity at Dublin Airport over the past few days has likely cost the industry well over a million euros. If not stopped, the cost of disruptions can quickly multiply as planes have to be diverted, which consumes extra fuel and delays pile up on personnel costs.
Airport operations at the capital’s international gateway were suspended for 40 minutes on Monday and were also suspended over the weekend after unauthorized drone activity was detected near the airfield.
In Ireland, anyone operating a drone that weighs more than 250g, or has a camera, must by law register as an operator.
The Irish Aviation Authority notes in its new safety plan for 2023 to 2025 that just under 6,700 drone operators in Ireland are licensed. And this despite the enormous popularity of drones for both recreational and professional use.
The DAA called the drone flight near the airport “reckless.” He urged drone owners to adhere to strict regulations on drone operation to avoid a repeat of the weekend disruptions.
It is illegal to operate a drone within 5km of an airfield, but in practice, monitoring this vast area is an epic challenge. The five kilometer radius of Dublin Airport is a densely populated area of 79 square kilometers comprising major urban centers such as Ballymun, Swords, Santry and Finglas. It includes the kinds of beaches and parks where it’s become common to see amateur drone enthusiasts, including children, enjoying what for many is a popular pastime unaware of the higher stakes.
Dublin Airport itself – operated by the DAA – has a drone detection system, while pilots and air traffic controllers also play a key role in identifying local drone activity.
“The drone detection system in place at Dublin Airport, working in tandem with inputs from airline pilots, ground staff and air traffic control, provides a robust surveillance system that enables a safe and effective response. to these incidents to allow us to focus on our top priorities, safety and security,” a DAA spokesperson said.
Carriers like Aer Lingus and Ryanair – Dublin Airport’s two biggest customers – have been forced to divert a small number of flights due to illegal drone activity.
The extra fuel and other costs will probably have amounted to tens of thousands of euros. Aer Lingus said it had to divert two services on Saturday afternoon – a flight from Paris was diverted to Shannon, while one from Manchester was diverted to Belfast International Airport. They then continued their journey to Dublin.
Ryanair had to reroute four flights on Friday, four on Saturday and five on Monday. He said it was “unacceptable” that thousands of passengers had been delayed and called for immediate government action.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has noted that an unplanned runway closure can cost airports up to €1 million per hour.
In December 2018, a drone flying around Gatwick Airport outside London caused the facility to shut down for two days, with hundreds of flights cancelled. The person piloting the drone was never found, despite a police investigation.
EASA said the incident at Gatwick would have cost the aviation industry 64 million euros.
The agency noted that such drone incidents at airports can result in “significant economic cost to airports and airlines.”
“For the 10 largest European airports, the cost of delaying a 30-minute runway closure is estimated at between €325,000 and €514,000,” according to EASA. “This is a real burden on the industry, especially as the number of incidents has increased in recent years.”