The Metropolitan Police has released a statement ahead of a planned demo that is due to take place on Friday 13th September at Heathrow Airport.
It has been reported that climate change demonstrators are intending to bring operations at the airport to a halt by flying drones in and around strictly-controlled airspace.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said:
“The Met has been preparing for this protest for some weeks now, and we have been working closely with partners to ensure that any potential disruption that could be caused by this activity is averted or kept to a minimum.
“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.
“As recent drone incidents at airports have shown, drone use in restricted airspace has the capability to not only cause a significant safety risk, but also cause a great disruption to the public at the airport being targeted and connecting airports internationally.
“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.”
It is thought that the police and airport authorities will have several assets at their disposal, which can help ground drones and to detect the source of illegal drone flights.
Such measures could include RF/DF equipment, jamming devices and other proactive measures which could immediately incapacitate any drones, as well as identifying the exact position where the drone has taken off from.
A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport said:
“We are working closely with the authorities to ensure that 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.
“Safety is always our number one priority.
“We agree with the need to act on climate change, but it is through constructive engagement and action that real progress will be made.
“Attempting to disrupt hard-working passengers and families taking flights will not solve the issue”.
In a tweet pinned to their page on 29th August, a spokesperson for ‘Heathrow Pause’ said:
“brave toy drone pilots are doing this for our children and planet.
“It is a heartbreaking decision.
“Normal people who are forced by their consciences are preparing to pay a very high price for our Governments criminal policies”.