In a first of its kind prosecution, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) successfully prosecuted a drone operator for a safety violation while flying a drone outside of a former Israeli embassy during a public demonstration. The incident occurred in May 2021, when the operator allegedly operated the drone in violation of IAA regulations in order to get footage of a demonstration in Dublin.

The incident was first addressed at the scene by the IAA; the drone was detained and the operator was advised of the infringement: violation of the 1993 IAA Act for “operating a drone over an assembly of people.”

While the operator did have ample experience as a freelance filmmaker, the IAA alleged he did not appreciate the safety risks posed to the crowd gathered underneath a flying drone. By flying over an assembly of people, those individuals cannot safely move away if the drone malfunctions and falls to the bystanders below or operates erratically.

The IAA informed the court that flying a drone over an assembly of people was considered a “high-risk offence” and that the “drone did fly relatively close overhead.”

The operator defendant plead guilty and was awarded the Probation Act (which means that the operator was spared a recorded conviction) and ordered to contribute to the IAA’s legal costs as well as to make a charitable donation to the Little Flower Penny Dinner Charity, which provides legal aid to the underprivileged in Dublin.

Diarmuid Ó Conghaile, Aviation Regulator for the IAA, said that public safety is the priority: “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 beginning of last year. Luckily no one was injured in this instance and the operator has admitted he was at fault. The use of drones is growing all the time, and whilst we can educate people on the safety aspects of their use, drone pilots must understand that these operations come with risks. Had this pilot undertaken the necessary training, this incident is unlikely to have taken place. Cooperation between the [national police service of the Republic of Ireland] and the IAA is invaluable in ensuring the safety of the public when it comes to aviation, as was seen in this case.”