Civil Defence volunteers were presented with Certificates of competency yesterday by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) for the use and operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA), better known as drones.
The presentation of certificates took place at the Civil Defence training centre at Ratra House in the Phoenix Park in Dublin yesterday, Saturday 26th November.
Twenty volunteers completed their training as SUA Operators and are now officially licensed to use a fleet of 24 Civil Defence drones in an operational or training capacity. The training involved a comprehensive 8-weekend training schedule, which consists of unmanned aircraft maintenance, flight regulation theory and practical piloting tasks.
The presentation of SUA certificates to the Civil Defence volunteers was featured on RTÉ News yesterday evening.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Sharon Gaffney at the presentation at Ratra House yesterday, Kevin Houston, Technical Officer at Civil Defence Ireland said “These drones can cover large areas of open ground and open coastal areas where it can be dangerous for volunteers to go in to search for a missing person in those areas so its increased safety ten-fold”.
Civil Defence SUA Regional Teams
Nine SUA teams were developed by the Civil Defence. Teams are deployed geographically in accordance with the Major Emergency Management Regions. Each team consists of two IAA fully licensed SUA pilots.
Civil Defence drone teams have assisted the Gardaí in a number of searches for missing persons this year. The technology can also be used to provide support to other agencies such as providing footage of areas affected by flood or fire damage.
Drones used in Clare Search operations
The new drones allow Civil Defence volunteers to cover areas of ground six times faster than previous methods and only as recent as this week, an SUA team in the Mid-West region have been using a drone while assisting gardaí and the Coast Guard in the search for Maria Hennigar, a 35 year old woman missing from the Doolin area in Co. Clare since early November.
Clare Civil Defence joined Gardai and the Doolin Coastguard in efforts to locate Ms Hennigar on Friday. As part of the search, SUA Team based in Ennis, consisting of a drone pilot and two camera operators used the new technology operating under new pilot licences secured in conjunction with the Irish Aircraft Authority (IAA).
The drones can also be used for many other operational events by the SUA Teams. One licensed SUA Operator based in the Midlands Region is Damien Dollard of Laois Civil Defence.
Speaking to RTÉ News yesterday, Mr. Dollard outlined the benefits of the drones to the Civil Defence volunteers. “It allows us to check the areas that we are going to be searching from an overview before we send any volunteers in, it also allows us in pre-planning for various events so we can pre-plan for flooding events and take photos of ‘before and after’ of any incidents for planning of future operations’.
IAA orders registration of drones
With an expected increase in the sales of drones in Ireland this Christmas, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) urges all owners to register drones weighing 1 kg or more and invest in quality training on how to use the drone safely.
Ralph James, IAA Director of Safety Regulation, said “With the expected growth in the sales of drones over the Christmas period, the IAA must ensure that drones are used properly and in safe locations. They also need to ensure that they don’t cause harm to people or property, or interfere with other forms of aviation.”
“If you purchase a drone over 1 kg you are required to register it with the IAA and you need to be aware of your responsibilities. You must operate your drone in a safe and responsible manner and in full compliance with the regulations,” he said.
Registration of drones weighing 1 kg or more is a mandatory requirement. Over 6,000 drones and model aircraft have been registered with the IAA over the past year.
The legislation prohibits users from operating their drones:
•if it will be a hazard to another aircraft in flight;
•over an assembly of people;
•farther than 300m from the operator;
•within 120m of any person, vessel or structure not under the operator’s control;
•closer than 5km from an aerodrome;
•in a negligent or reckless manner so as to endanger life or property of others;
•over 400ft (120m) above ground level;
•over urban areas;
•in civil of military controlled airspace;
•in restricted areas (e.g. military installations, prisons, etc.);
•unless the operator has permission from the landowner for take-off and landing.