Heathrow Airport is currently facing increased drone activity, as climate activists take their positions around the airport.
In an attempt to disrupt departing and arriving flights, the activists have taken positions and/or have planned times to commence drone flights in the five kilometer exclusion zone.
Three men were arrested by Metropolitan Police today under the suspicion of causing or planning a public disruption and a dispersion order was put in place. This means anyone suspected of wrong doing can be asked to leave the area under police direction.
Commanding the protests is Heathrow Pause – an online group aiming to minimise air traffic around Heathrow as part of a climate crisis.
On their website, it is emphasised that “arrest is a small price to pay for fighting the climate crisis”. As well as plenty of promotional videos, Heathrow Pause also states they aren’t doing this for fun and legitimately do feel for passengers caught up in any potential mess.
Regardless of this, flying drones in or around airport space is a criminal offence and also dangerous. An aircraft that strikes or ingests a drone can sustain great damage and possibly cause harm to the people on board.
An increased police presence has been noted around Heathrow Airport and anyone caught flying a drone faces immediate arrest. The dispersion order will be in place until 04:30 local time Sunday.
Adding to the worries, police arrested seven people on Thursday for suspected drone flying or plotting activities. Of the seven, one of them was Extinction Rebellion co-founder, Roger Hallam.
Just like Heathrow Pause, Extinction Rebellion is an activist group aimed at fighting against climate breakdown, biodiversity loss and the risk of social and ecological collapse.
Although both groups intend on not using violence for their protests, the use of drones against aircraft is criminal and can be seen as violent.
Authorities involved are reportedly using signal jamming devices to hinder drone operations, resulting in two failed attempts at getting drones airborne. It is unclear as to whether this is true or not.
Heathrow Airport released a statement on the subject addressing the climate crisis as a legitimate concern, however it is one that requires constructive engagement and not illegal activities.
Heathrow and Gatwick have been subject to a few drone issues of late. Here’s our story from when the airport had to cancel departures, causing chaos with passengers:
Cover image by Mike McBey on Flickr
Any updates or escalations will be added to this post.