Extinction Rebellion co-founder to join second day of Heathrow drone protest

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An Extinction Rebellion co-founder will take part in the second day of an environmental drone protest at Heathrow Airport after Friday’s action failed to take off.

Roger Hallam will take part in the Heathrow Pause action on Saturday, the group said, as it continues to fly the devices in the 5km exclusion zone around the transport hub in an attempt to disrupt flights.

As yet, the activists have failed to cause any delays, and flights continued to land as normal on Friday and Saturday.

Mr Hallam was detained on Thursday as part of a pre-emptive wave of arrests ahead of the activism, but was released on Friday night.

The Metropolitan Police said 18 people have been arrested since Thursday in relation to the protest, and a dispersal order around the airport will remain in place until 4.30am on Sunday “to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport”.

Some of the toy drones appeared to be prevented from working on Friday by what the climate change activists – who are a splinter group of Extinction Rebellion, but separate from it – suspect were signal jammers.

In a video released by the group in the early hours of Friday morning, one activist can be seen attempting to get the small device to work and is heard to say: “They’re jamming the signal.”

Heathrow and police refused to comment on specific measures they may have taken to stop the protesters’ drones from working, but an expert said technology exists which can jam signals between operators and drones.

Richard Gill, chief executive of Drone Defence, told the PA news agency: “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.”

PA Graphics
PA Graphics

Former Paralympian James Brown was arrested at Terminal 2 on Friday after he took part in the protest, and he told PA that there were up to 35 people willing to fly the devices in an attempt to cause disruption.

Mr Brown, who is partially sighted, did not actually fly a drone and said he held it above his head.

Despite the minimal disruption, Heathrow Pause is happy about the “conversation” triggered by its action.

It said on Friday: “The real objective was always to trigger a sensible, honest conversation, throughout society, on the dangerous folly of Heathrow expansion, with the ultimate objective of cancelling the third runway.

“That conversation is now happening. It is incumbent on all of us to keep it going.”

Heathrow Airport confirmed its runways were open and said they were committed to addressing climate change.

It said in a statement on Friday: “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.”

Earlier this week, Deputy Assistant Met Commissioner Laurence Taylor advised Heathrow passengers to travel as normal and said they were “confident” disruption would be kept to a minimum.

This action is the latest in a string of climate change protests this year, including the widespread action in London in April, which saw Extinction Rebellion bring sites including Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge to a standstill.

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