Climate protesters have said they plan to deploy toy drones to ground flights and draw attention to aviation emissions. But authorities say they are working on plans to keep planes in the sky.
London’s Heathrow Airport on Tuesday said it is working with law enforcement to ensure drones are not deployed by climate protesters to disrupt air traffic.
“We have in place the dynamic risks assessment programs which are carried out by airfield and security experts and at no time will safety be compromised,” according to a statement issued by airport authorities. “Alongside drone detection capabilities, we will mitigate the impact of this illegal action and operate in a way that is safe at all times.”
Protesters plan to fly toy drones near the airport in a bid to halt flights and pressure the government to do more on fighting emissions from the aviation industry.
Heathrow Pause, a splinter group of Extinction Rebellion, said last month that “the looming catastrophe of airport expansion gives us no choice and compels us to act.”
The group said it would fly the drones within a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) restricted zone but outside flight paths to avoid endangering air traffic.
“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,” said the group.
Authorities have been on alert since earlier this year, when outgoing EU Security Commissioner Julian King warned that terrorists could use drones to carry out attacks, including targeting airports.
Earlier this year, multiple instances of drone sightings halted air traffic at Gatwick and Heathrow airports, leading to significant economic losses for airlines.
Since then, airports have deployed anti-drone systems in a bid to safeguard flights. The British government has also strengthened law enforcement capabilities to deal with drone threats at airports.