An expert group is to meet tomorrow to discuss the implications of suspected drone activity in the UK for Irish airports.

The National Civil Aviation Threat and Risk Group comprises the Irish Aviation Authority, State airports, Irish airlines, the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said the group would assess and advise him on recent incidents at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports involving possible drone activity and the implications for Irish airports.

Flight departures were temporarily suspended at Heathrow yesterday following "reports of drones".

Between 19 and 21 December, Gatwick was repeatedly forced to close due to reported drone sightings, causing mass disruption to passengers, with about 1,000 flights affected.

In a statement, Minister Ross said: "There are already strict rules in Ireland around the use of drones, including an exclusion zone of five kilometres around airports.

"The misuse of drones is an offence, and flying drones in controlled Irish airspace or within five kilometres of an airport is a very serious matter.

"I have asked my department to convene at short notice a special meeting of an expert industry group to assess recent events and advise me on how we are prepared at our own airports and whether there are further things which can be done."

UK airports 'cracking down' on drones after Heathrow incident

Airports in the UK say they are stepping up measures to stop drones grounding flights.

Aviation minister Liz Sugg and security minister Ben Wallace will hold a meeting with airport bosses tomorrow to discuss plans to crack down on the problem.

The UK's Department for Transport said the British government is working with the aviation industry to explore technical solutions.

A spokesman for the Airport Operators Association, a trade association representing UK airports, said: "In light of events at Gatwick and Heathrow, airports are working together, as well as with government and the police, to see what lessons can be learnt.

"This includes looking at what technology is available and what deterrent action, such as increased police patrols, can be taken."

The group is reviewing whether it wants the Government to introduce legislation which would make it mandatory for drones to be fitted with geo-fencing technology to stop them entering no-fly zones, such as airports.