300 reports to PSNI over drones second highest in UK
Police here received more than 300 reports linked to drone activity last year, new figures reveal.
The number of incidents increased by 17%, from 258 in 2017 to 301 in 2018.
The PSNI had the second-highest number of reports of all UK police forces. Only Greater Manchester Police had more (314).
Across the UK there were 3,400 reports of drone activity last year.
The figures were obtained by Professor Alan McKenna from the Kent Law School, who sent Freedom of Information requests to all police forces.
Not all of the drone reports to the PSNI were necessarily to do with illegal activity.
Earlier this week operations at Dublin Airport were suspended for 30 minutes after a pilot reported a drone flying in the vicinity.
Planes were grounded and incoming flights diverted, some to Belfast, after the incident at around 11.30 on Thursday morning.
Dublin Airport said the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) ordered a 30-minute suspension in line with official protocols for drone sightings.
No more drone activity was reported in that time and operations resumed.
Before Christmas drone sightings caused travel chaos at Gatwick Airport. Aircraft were grounded for three days, with 1,000 flights cancelled and 140,000 passengers affected.
According to Prof McKenna's research, a total of 3,421 reports were made about drones in 2018 to UK police forces - a rise of almost 400 from 2017.
Ryan McCready from Hex Horus Ltd, which specialises in counter-drone consultancy and training, said detecting people using drones for illegal purposes such as burglaries or voyeurism brings problems for police.
"Policing misuse of drones is extremely difficult with the current police powers and their lack of capability, which they are addressing," he said.
"It is not the purpose of the PSNI to police drones unless they are breaking the law, but outside of that Civil Aviation Authority has published guidance, but this is only designed to support people who want to operate drones legally and responsibly."
He added: "These reports to the PSNI could be all about people's perception of drones."