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Published on Friday, August 30, 2019

New drone threat at Heathrow

Climate change activists will meet with police and airport authorities today to discuss plans to fly toy drones in the Heathrow exclusion zone later this month.

Four people, calling themselves 'peace pilots', are planning the drone protest from September 13 to highlight the 'incompatibility of Heathrow Airport's expansion with the Government's own legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050'.

They include a 64-year-old writer, a 61-year-old window cleaner and teacher, a retired IT business analyst, also 61, and a 54-year-old charity social entrepreneur and Paralympian medalist.

"We are in the middle of a climate and ecological emergency," said the writer, Valerie Milner-Brown.

"I am a law-abiding citizen - a mother and a grandmother too. I don't want to break the law, I don't want to go to prison, but right now we, as a species, are walking off the edge of a cliff.

"Heathrow Airport emits 18 million tons of CO2 a year. That's more than most countries. A third runway will produce a further 7.3 million tons of CO2. For all Life - now and in the future - we have to take action. I'm terrified but if this is what it will take to make politicians, business leaders and the media wake up, then I'm prepared to take this action and to face the consequences."

The activists are part of Heathrow Pause, a splinter group of Extinction Rebellion, although Extinction Rebellion has distanced itself from this new action.

The activists believe they have found a loophole in Heathrow airport's health and safety protocols to fly toy drones within its restricted zone.

They say they expect airport authorities to ground all flights even though drones will not be flown in flight paths and there will be no risk to travellers.

But the Met Police said it would do everything in its power to prevent and stop 'any such criminal activity'.

"Heathrow Airport is part of our national infrastructure, and we will not allow the illegal activity of protestors to cause misery to thousands of air travellers," said deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor.

"The dangers of flying drones in airspace used by airliners carrying passengers are stark and the consequences potentially very severe. Anyone caught illegally using a drone can expect to be dealt with in line with the law.

"We would urge anybody intending to join this event with a view to committing criminal activity, whether considered peaceful or not, to think twice. Protestors should note that endangering the safety of an aircraft is a very serious offence that can result in a long jail sentence.

"As recent drone incidents at airports have shown, drone use in restricted airspace has the capability to cause great disruption to the public at the airport being targeted and connecting airports internationally, and the Met takes its role in preventing that from happening very seriously."

He said the police would be deploying an effective policing plan around Heathrow to police and detect any illegal activity.

"We are determined to play our part in keeping Heathrow safe and minimising disruption to the area, and I want to reassure the public that we have a very experienced command team in place for this operation."

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