Last month we reported that a group of environmental activists in London were planning to exploit a safety loophole at Heathrow airport, grounding flights as part of a protest against the airport’s proposed expansion.
To do this, the intention was to fly multiple drones at head height but within the airport’s restricted airspace. This, the activists claimed, would require the airport to suspend flights, despite no direct threat to manned operations being present.
The protest began in the early hours of Friday morning. Between 50 to 200 people are intending to fly toy drones simultaneously across the next few days. The situation is still unfolding, but at the time of writing, there have been 3 attempted flights – at least one successful – and a total of 10 arrests so far.
Air traffic at Heathrow has not been affected, but there are more drone flights planned so that may change.
A number of arrests were made in the UK capital prior to the protest, so it’s not clear how disruptive that will prove to be for the disruptors.
Counter drone tech is working?
In a post on Twitter, the protest group said that early attempts to fly in the early hours of the morning were prevented, and that “Heathrow [is] using signal jamming to frustrate early flights.”
Although that may have just been a technical hitch, as the group claims to have flown successfully since then. After controlling drones in restricted airspace, Heathrow Pause members are willingly handing themselves into police.
The leader of Heathrow Pause, Roger Hallam, is one of those to be arrested on conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. He outlines his motivations below.
As mentioned above, the situation is still unfolding but as of now, no flights have been impacted.
A statement from the group said: “Ten arrests so far, two of those made early this morning. At least one toy drone flight has happened within HeathrowAirport’s exclusion zone. No flights cancelled yet but we have more pilots of toy drones who will keep trying to make Heathrow adhere to their own rules.”
It’s regrettable that the protesters are using drones as their preferred method of airport disruption. History may judge them kindly for their actions in the face of climate change, but the drone industry certainly won’t.
Members of Heathrow Pause continued to attempt to fly drones at head height within the airport’s exclusion zone over the course of the weekend. There have now been 19 arrests in total and flights have not been disrupted.
The story (and the group’s environmental motivations) have gained publicity around the world, so perhaps they will see it as mission accomplished.