Just as a highly disruptive two-day pilots strike comes to an end at British Airways, there could be even more disruption at Heathrow Airport in the next couple of days. Climate protestors have vowed to bring operations at the airport to a standstill on Friday by using small toy drones to fly in a restricted zone around the airfield – but not directly within the flight paths.
The idea of using drones to disrupt Heathrow as been floated around for months. The controversial plan was first proposed by the popular Extinction Rebellion group who took over parts of Central London earlier this year to highlight what they call a “climate and ecological emergency.”
So controversial was that plan, though, that it caused a rift in the ranks of Extinction Rebellion. In the end, the main protest movement decided not to back the drone flying idea but a splinter group called ‘Heathrow Pause’ has decided to push ahead
Heathrow Airport says it will be deploying “drone mitigation and detection systems” in an attempt to keep operations running and planes out of danger.
In a statement, the West London airport said:
“We are working closely with the authorities to ensure Heathrow Airport will remain open on 13th September despite the threat of illegal protest activity involving the use of drones.”
“We’d like to reassure passengers that we will be using our drone mitigation and detection systems, dynamic situation assessments and our partnership with the authorities, to minimise any intended disruption and keep you safe.”
The airport agreed that there was a need to act on climate change but argued that disrupting the travel plans of thousands of people was the way to solve the issue.
The Metropolitan Police has said that flying drones within a restricted zone could be classed as endangering the safety of an aircraft – “…a very serious offence that can result in a long jail sentence,” the police explained.