Planned Drone Protest Fails To Disrupt Heathrow Operations

A drone protest designed to cause havoc at Heathrow airport has failed. According to its latest update, the Metropolitan Police says that nine individuals have, so far, been arrested concerning the action.

Heathrow Airport, Drone Protest, Environmental Activists
A drone protest at Heathrow Airport has failed to cause disruption. Photo: Heathrow Airport

Last December, Gatwick Airport was brought to its knees when drones were spotted flying in the vicinity of the airfield. Environmental protestors hoped to replicate this effect at Heathrow today.

As the world’s seventh busiest airport, had such a protest succeeded, the effects would have been felt around the world. Instead, the protestors managed to cause far less disruption than British Airways pilots had earlier in the week.

What had been planned?

Environmental activists had planned to bring Heathrow Airport’s traffic to a halt by deliberately flying drones in the exclusion zone surrounding the airport. The illegal protest activity was based on drone flights at Gatwick last year which caused widespread chaos.

However, protestors had planned to fly drones no higher than head height away from the airport’s perimeter but within the 5km exclusion zone. While this action would’ve caused no immediate risk to aircraft, in principle, it does remain a danger. After all, that’s the reason for the exclusion zone.

Heathrow Airport, Drone Protest, Environmental Activists
The Metropolitan Police have so far confirmed nine arrests relating to the incident. Photo: Heathrow Airport

No disruption experienced

At the time of writing, the protestors had failed to cause any disruption to Heathrow’s operations. The Metropolitan Police have placed a dispersal zone around Heathrow Airport for around 48 hours. This, they say, “has been implemented to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport.”

Heathrow Airport has operated flights as normal today, with the airport issuing a statement saying: “Heathrow’s runways and taxiways remain open and fully operational despite attempts to disrupt the airport through the illegal use of drones in protest nearby.”

The airport went on to add: “We will continue to work with the authorities to carry out dynamic risk assessment programmes and keep our passengers flying safely on their journeys today.”

What will happen now?

The Metropolitan Police’s dispersal order around Heathrow will remain in place for around 48 hours from when it was issued. It is possible for this to be extended if necessary. Realistically, a drone flown below head height away from flight paths is unable to pose as significant a threat as the protestors had hoped.

It looks as though the airport will continue to function as planned. Both Heathrow Airport and the Metropolitan Police are keeping a watchful eye on the situation to address threats as they arise. In fact, photos shared on social media this morning appeared to show a couple of men being detained at Myrtle Avenue, having failed to get a drone airborne.

Did you fly from Heathrow today? Let us know in the comments.