Social media being used to crack down on illegal drone use

As the number of drones registered in Ireland is set to pass more than 10,000 next year, the public is reporting illegally-captured photos and videos posted on social media to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

There are strict rules governing drone use under the Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) and Rockets Order, which came into force at the end of 2015.

The order requires all drones that weigh over 1kg to be registered with the IAA. Drones that weigh less than 1kg are limited to operating at a height of 50 feet unless registered.

While more than 8,000 drones have been registered with the IAA, many people have not done so and often post illegally shot footage to social media to show friends.

“People who drone do put stuff on social media and this has been reported to us.

“In our response to that, if it is brought to our attention and there is evidence that it is illegally-captured footage, it usually gets taken down,” said Ralph James, the IAA’s director of safety regulation.

The current legislation carries many rules for hobbyists. For example, it is illegal to fly drones near airports, within restricted areas around airfields and aerodromes, or near military-controlled airspace.

They cannot be flown more than 120 metres above ground level; drones can also not be flown farther than 300 metres from the controller, or outside of the user’s line of sight.

Drones cannot be flown over an assembly of more than 12 people, at events such as concerts, parades, and sporting activities.

Mr James said this legislation will more than likely change in the next year or so.

“The legislation will change and it will come through Europe. The weight you will need to register at will be 250g and this is likely to be the case by 2019,” he told the Irish Examiner.

He also said that drone use is expected to increase here.

“It is going to grow and grow and not go away. Over the last few months, we have seen a lot more drones under 1kg being registered.

“They will continue to grow and there is no way they have peaked yet,” he said.

“Aviation is highly regulated and drones are now bringing a lot of people into aviation who don’t see it as aviation. They see it as technology like mobile phones.

“We are getting people who are registering at a very high rate.

“I’ve no doubt there are people who have drones and who haven’t registered them,” Mr James said.

There are also many positives emerging from the popularisation of the aviation tool, according to the IAA’s director of safety regulation.

“All Civil Defence units have drones and are trained to use them in search and rescue operations.

They are being used for railway line inspections as well as powerline inspections,” he said.