In Brief

Heathrow braces for climate protest

Two environment campaigners arrested for planning to fly drones into airport exclusion zone

Two climate campaigners have been arrested on suspicion of planning to fly drones near Heathrow Airport, as part of a coordinated effort to bring disruption to Europe’s busiest airport.

Roger Hallam and fellow campaigner, Mike Lynch-White, had been conducting an interview with journalists in east London, when officers from the Metropolitan Police arrived and arrested them.

The men are believed to be part of Heathrow Pause, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, which planned to deploy drones in the 3.1-mile exclusion zone around the airport on Friday. The Independent reports these were to be flown “at head height and away from flight paths to avoid any safety risk” but would still potentially disrupt hundreds of flights.

The Met police have said they are “confident” they will be able to prevent any disruption caused by protesters, with Sky News reporting that frontline officers have been drafted in from areas outside of London to boost numbers tackling the protest.

Scotland Yard has previously warned activists could face possible life sentences if they fly drones around the airport in a bid to ground flights.

A new law enacted in March 2019 states that any drone flying within three miles of an airport risks endangering aircraft. The exclusion zone was increased from one kilometer by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) after drone flights at Gatwick and Heathrow airports grounded 1,000 flights in December 2018 and January of this year.

CNN says the sightings, which affected tens of thousands of people, “exposed a soft spot in airport security where potentially just one individual with a drone can cause widespread chaos” and Heathrow Pause says exploiting this vulnerability is the only way to draw people's attention to the climate emergency.

The group said those flying drones were committed to “non-violence, transparency and accountability and to cooperating with the police as far as is possible” and that the action was designed to highlight “the grave risk of airport expansion during the climate and ecological emergency”.

According to the Daily Mail, Extinction Rebellion originally came up with the idea of using drones to shut down Heathrow over the summer, “but it abandoned its plans after facing a backlash from police, ministers and MPs which accused it of putting lives at risk”.

Earlier this year, the UK declared a climate emergency and set itself a legally binding target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

However, activists point to plans to build a third runway at Heathrow as evidence the government is not serious about meeting the target.

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