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The Latest News From the IAA

Aviation regulator successfully prosecutes drone operator

06 Feb 2024

Galway operator pleads guilty to the illegal use of drone with potential for public safety risk

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has successfully brought a prosecution with respect to a drone safety occurrence at the Galway Shopping Centre, Headford Road, Galway City. The incident, involving a large drone weighing over 6kg, occurred in October 2022. The incident was reported by a member of the public, who advised the IAA of the occurrence at the busy shopping centre. 

The defendant, Mr. John Lane pleaded guilty to multiple offences under the Irish Aviation Authority act of 1993 [section 74]. Judge Mary Fahy ordered the defendant to pay costs of €5,000. 

Despite his experience as a drone pilot, the operator did not have the appropriate authorisation to fly close to people or commercial areas with a drone of this size. His actions posed a potential safety risk to the families and shoppers who use the car park at Galway’s largest shopping centre. Flying over people is considered a particularly high-risk activity, as those under the drone cannot safely move away if the drone malfunctions.

Judge Mary Fahy emphasised the importance of flying carefully when operating drones. 

The IAA’s investigator, Brian Thornton commented on the need to ensure that public safety is maintained through the correct use of drones: 

“As Ireland’s Aviation Regulator, the safety of the public is our priority. The onus is on those who operate drones to do so safely and within the scope of the law, which in this case is EU-wide and in force since the end of 2019. The drone used in this instance weighed the equivalent of a bowling ball. Had it lost control, it could have posed a significant risk to people on the ground. The operator has admitted he was at fault.” 

Since the occurrence, the operator has completed additional drone pilot training.

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