The Metropolitan Police are to deploy extra officers around Heathrow to try to prevent the airport’s operations being disrupted by climate change protesters.
Activist group Heathrow Pause is planning to fly drones into Heathrow’s “no-fly” zone on Friday (13 September) in a bid to ground flights.
Heathrow Pause is a splinter group of Extinction Rebellion, whose climate change protests brought parts of central London to a standstill in April and has also expressed a desire to disrupt Heathrow’s flights.
But the Met said it had been preparing for Heathrow Pause drone protest for “some weeks” to try to ensure “any potential disruption that could be caused by this activity is averted or kept to a minimum”.
Passengers due to fly from Heathrow on Friday are being advised to travel as normal to the airport.
Deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor added: “This group of activists have stated their intention to fly drones illegally near Heathrow airport on Friday morning, with the sole aim of causing significant disruption to planned flights.
“Far from this being a lawful protest, this is the deliberate and criminal targeting of an essential part of the UK’s national infrastructure that thousands of people rely on every day and it will not be tolerated.
“We would urge anyone planning to take part in this activity to reconsider. Airspace around all airports is restricted for public safety and security, and we take the flying of a drone within airspace used by passenger planes very seriously. Anyone caught flying a drone without permission must expect to be arrested and prosecuted.”
Heathrow added in a statement: “We are working closely with the authorities to ensure Heathrow airport will remain open on 13 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 authorities, to minimise any intended disruption and keep you safe.”
Drones flying on to the airfield caused major disruption to services at Gatwick just before Christmas last year.
“Drone use in restricted airspace has the capability to not only cause a significant safety risk, but also cause great disruption to the public at the airport being targeted and connecting airports internationally,” said Taylor.
“There are a range of detect, identify and counter drone tactics deployed which gives us the capability to respond to drones being flown illegally in restricted airspace.
“The police’s job is to detect and stop criminal activity in a proportionate way, and there is a robust policing plan in place to ensure that we are in a position to deal with any illegal activity as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“We will be deploying extra officers for this operation, and the plan covers the unique challenges that come with a protest targeting the airport and the surrounding areas.”