HEATHROW Airport today was disrupted by bumbling eco-warriors who failed to launch flimsy "toy" drones.
The woeful plot was busted by police in the last 24 hours leading to the arrest of ten members of activist group Heathrow Pause - a splinter faction of Extinction Rebellion.
At 3am today, a live stream was shared on the group's Twitter account, showing two people struggling to get a drone off the ground.
The men, filming themselves near a road, said they were experiencing "a technical glitch" as they held the faulty gadget above their heads.
Heathrow Pause has since tweeted that they believe their efforts were thwarted by signal-jamming equipment at the travel hub.
The activist group insists it only intends to fly the drones at head height - an action which could still trigger the shutdown of the airport.
It named the two men arrested this morning as Marko and Steffen although did not share their surnames.
They said a fourth person was also arrested - a man named Frank who was filming the failed stunt.
At 5.50am this morning, the Met Police said they had arrested two climate protesters who were caught within the 5km exclusion zone of the UK's busiest airport.
They were detained "on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance", cops said.
BUMBLING DRONE PLOT
Despite the police bust, some eco-warriors are determined to carry out the protest today - and are claiming that at least one drone was flown "successfully."
However, Heathrow said the airport is "fully operational" and no flights have been impacted.
One of the drone pilots who took part in the action said as many as 35 people were willing to fly the devices.
James Brown, a partially-sighted former Paralympian, was arrested by police at Heathrow Terminal 2 after his protest - which he claims involved him holding the flying device above his head.
Before his arrest, he said: "I have come to the area outside Heathrow with a group of other people and we have flown small drones.
"I was number three - number four is about to go. There are lots and lots of people."
More footage has emerged from the group's press call on Thursday, in which reporters are seen watching two activists - Valerie Milner-Brown and Linda Davidsen - again failing to launch the "flimsy" drones near the airport.
The women - who were arrested later that day in a police bust in Highgate - blamed the strong winds while a journalist present said the gadgets "struggled in a light breeze."
Heathrow Pause admitted it intended to fly drones in the 5km zone around the transport hub.
Scotland Yard confirmed Thursday that two men were arrested in Bethnal Green and two women and a man were arrested in Highgate, North London.
Heathrow 'fully operational' despite drone protest
- A Heathrow spokesperson said planes would taking off as normal despite attempts by the eco-activists.
- They said: “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. 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.
- “We agree with the need for climate change action but illegal protest activity designed with the intention of disrupting thousands of people, is not the answer.
- “The answer to climate change is in constructive engagement and working together to address the issue, something that Heathrow remains strongly committed to do.”
- The first touchdown this morning, from Perth, Australia, was at 4.36am while the first take-off, from Lisbon, Portugal, departed at just after 6am.
There were further arrests in Haringey in the north of the capital yesterday, the Met Police confirmed this morning.
Roger Hallam, the co-founder of eco-warriors Extinction Rebellion, was among those detained by police on Thursday.
Footage showed the campaigner being led away by police after being arrested at a cafe in Bethnal Green, East London.
Fellow activist Mike Lynch-White was also arrested alongside him.
All were held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance.
As of 1pm Friday, the Met Police said ten people have been arrested as part of the operation while Heathrow Pause is claiming that 11 have been detained.
Extinction Rebellion has released a statement saying that while some of its members are involved with the splinter group - it "does not support an action at Heathrow as designed at this time."
Scotland Yard said a dispersal order had been put in place at Heathrow Airport until 4.30am on Sunday "to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport".
A large police presence was seen in the airport area this morning.
RAID ON ECO-WARRIORS
If the eco-plot was successful it would have likely led to flights being delayed and cancelled bringing misery to thousands of passengers at Britain's busiest airport.
Many social media users have reacted with fury at the planned protest.
One tweeted: "My 80 year old parents are flying home from Spain tomorrow. They do not deserve to have their lives put at risk by your terrorist actions.
"Even the related delays will cause unwanted stress. @metpoliceuk. Arrest them all."
Another wrote: "Thanks for potentially ruining my flight and holiday on Friday - will u be offering compensation for my loses spent ?????"
A third posted on the group's Facebook page: "Disgusting that these selfish people plan to ruin people’s holidays by flying drones at the airport. Let’s hope the police put them where they deserve to be."
Anti-drone equipment was set up on the roof of the airport today as authorities plan to tackle any planned action.
Are authorises using signal jammers to stop the drones?
- Heathrow and police refused to comment on specific measures they may have taken to stop the drones from working.
- But an expert said technology exists which can jam signals between operators and drones.
- Richard Gill, chief executive of Drone Defence, said: "That technology is definitely available and can do exactly that.
- "When a drone is operated remotely it relies on a radio connection between the drone and the pilot.
- "Interference can cut that connection between the operator and the drone."
- He added: "We're not privy to what the Metropolitan Police have deployed at Heathrow," but said authorities have updated their approach since drones disrupted flights at Gatwick Airport last Christmas.
Heathrow Pause’s Twitter feed had also revealed that Valerie Milner-Brown would be flying a drone today - before she was arrested in North London.
It said: “Valerie and other 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 prepared to pay a very high price for our Governments criminal policies.”
Heathrow Pause previously released a 22-page document detailing their plot and saying members would be prepared to go to prison.
"We can’t stand aside any longer. As an act of conscience, we have to act.
"From the 13th September, we will exploit a loophole in Heathrow Airport's health and safety protocols and fly toy drones within its restricted zone.
"It is our understanding that the airport’s authorities will respond by grounding all flights. Drones will not be flown in flight paths and there will be no risk of harm to anyone.
"We know that we will be arrested. We know that we face significant prison sentences for our actions."
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, said: "We have carried out these arrests today in response to proposed plans for illegal drone use near Heathrow Airport which protest group Heathrow Pause have said will take place tomorrow morning.
"Our policing plan is aimed at preventing criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport, and the thousands of passengers that will be using it. We have warned previously that arrests would be made if this activity continued.
"In these circumstances, we believe these arrests to be a proportionate response to preventing criminal activity that could significantly impact on a major piece of national infrastructure.
"We remain fully prepared for the planned protest tomorrow, and will work quickly to identify criminal activity and arrest anyone committing offences."
When is it illegal to use drones?
An unmanned aircraft must not be flown within the flight restriction zone of a protected aerodrome.
Where there is an air traffic control unit a flight at any height is prohibited.
Drones have been banned from flying above 400ft, and within one kilometre (0.6 miles) of airport boundaries.
The use of drones with cameras is also banned in congested areas or at a public event.
Anyone breaching these restrictions will face penalties of up to £2,500 and could be charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft.
This has a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Other measures being considered include giving police the power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £300 for misuse and the ability to seize drones being used irresponsibly.
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