'complex case' | 

Man accused of flying drone close to Dublin Airport told he must not ‘fly any UAS’

Eric Brills (50) of Holywell Dale, Swords, north Co Dublin, was arrested on Thursday evening and detained at Dublin Airport Garda Station

File photo

Tom TuiteIndependent.ie

A man accused of flying a drone in "a critical area" close to Dublin Airport has been granted bail but was ordered not to operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Flights were disrupted, and the airport was temporarily shut down four times for up to 45 minutes over the last two and a half weeks due to the danger posed by remotely piloted drone activity.

Some flights were diverted to Shannon and Belfast, with disruption for thousands of passengers.

Eric Brills (50) of Holywell Dale, Swords, north Co Dublin, was arrested on Thursday evening and detained at Dublin Airport Garda Station under section four of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.

He was charged overnight with an offence under section three of the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1975, as substituted by section 51 Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1988.

Gardai held him pending his appearance before Judge Treasa Kelly at Dublin District Court on Friday.

It is alleged that on January 24, at Naul Road, Cloghran, north Co Dublin, he unlawfully and intentionally interfered with the operation of air navigation facilities at Dublin Airport by operating a drone in the 300-metre critical area, such act being likely to interfere with the safety of aircraft in flight.

Detective Garda Enda Ledwith told Judge Kelly that the accused made no reply to the charge at 12.30am, and he was handed a true copy of the charge sheet.

He said there was no objection to bail subject to conditions. Detective Garda Ledwith asked that one of the terms would state Mr Brills must not "fly any UAS," which he explained meant unmanned aircraft systems, also known as drones.

Defence solicitor Donal Quigley said his client consented.

The detective also told the court that it was a "complex case", and he sought directions from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He added, "there is the possibility there will be further charges".

Judge Kelly imposed the conditions and ordered Mr Brills not to operate drones. He had to provide gardaí with his phone number and be contactable at all times, reside at his current address, surrender his passport within 24 hours and not apply for other travel documents.

The solicitor queried the basis for the detective's request to order his client to sign on once a week at a Garda station. The detective agreed Mr Brills did not have a bench warrant history.

Judge Kelly held that signing was not necessary.

However, she warned the accused not to use drones, to obey the other conditions read out at the hearing, and notify gardaí of any address or contact number change.

Judge Kelly said breaching the terms would result in gardaí seeking bail revocation.

Releasing him on bail, she ordered him to return to court on April 14 for the DPP's directions to be obtained. Mr Brills, who is yet to indicate a plea, did not address the court during the proceedings.

Legal aid was granted after the judge heard the accused was employed but earned less than €500 a week.

Under the legislation, the offence, on conviction, results in a mandatory prison sentence for up to life or for such other term as the courts considers proper. Suspended sentences or the Probation of Offenders Act shall not apply.

It is illegal to fly drones within 5km of the airport. Drones over a certain size must be registered, and each device has a unique digital fingerprint for identification.

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