Climate activists plan to disrupt London’s Heathrow with drones
LONDON: British climate change activists said they would disrupt operations at London's Heathrow airport with toy drones from Sept 13, a step they hope will ground flights and put pressure on the government to take tougher steps to reduce carbon emissions.
Heathrow could mitigate the impact of the action, but flying drones will add to travel chaos at Europe's biggest airport in September, with strike action by British Airways pilots also planned.
The Heathrow Pause group said it would fly toy drones within a 5km restricted zone around the airport but outside the flight paths of the airport, a step the group said would force the airport to ground flights.
"This is a symbolic action, using a legal loophole and participants' self-sacrifice to draw attention to the most serious and urgent crisis humanity has ever faced," the group said.
"The government's inaction on climate change, and the looming catastrophe of airport expansion, gives us no choice and compels us to act," it said.
Heathrow Pause, a splinter group of the climate activism group Extinction Rebellion which has disrupted London with high profile action this year, said it would fly drones at no higher than head level and give the airport one hour's advance notice.
The airport said the plan was illegal and counterproductive but said it had robust plans in place to make sure the airport could continue to operate.
"We agree with the need to act on climate change. This is a global issue that requires constructive engagement and action. Committing criminal offences and disrupting passengers is counterproductive," a spokesman for Heathrow said.
"The act of flying drones within 5km of an airfield is illegal because it carries risk. We will be working closely with the Met Police and other authorities to manage and mitigate any impacts this may cause."
Heathrow Pause said: "All participants flying drones know they risk arrest and imprisonment, and are prepared to be arrested peacefully."
Drone sightings caused chaos last December at Gatwick, Britain's second busiest airport after Heathrow, disrupting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people just before Christmas.
The incident led to about 1,000 flight cancellations and affected the travel of 140,000 passengers.
Another drone sighting halted flights for about an hour at Heathrow in January. - REUTERS