Environment protest group Heathrow Pause plans to disrupt flights at London Heathrow Airport for at least five days from Sept. 13 by illegally flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, within the airport’s exclusion zone.

The group opposes Heathrow’s expansion plans and wants to draw attention to the impact of rising emissions on climate change.

Unauthorized drone activity within Heathrow’s 5km (3.1 mi.) exclusion zone is illegal.

The campaign group plans to fly toy drones within the exclusion zone, from before the airport opens on Sept. 13. The drones will then be flown at regular intervals to keep flights grounded.

“We currently anticipate that we have the numbers [of drone-pilot protesters] to keep the action going from Friday [Sept. 13] through until Tuesday [Sept. 17] at the earliest, and quite possibly beyond,” Heathrow Pause said Sept. 9, via messaging platform WhatsApp.

Heathrow Airport said it is working closely with authorities and expects to remain open Sept. 13, without compromising safety.

“We will be using our drone mitigation and detection systems, dynamic situation assessments and our partnership with the authorities to minimize any intended disruption,” the airport said in a statement.

The Metropolitan Police said anyone caught flying a drone without permission within the exclusion zone will be arrested and prosecuted.

“This group of activists have stated their intention to fly drones illegally near Heathrow airport on Friday morning [Sept. 13], with the sole aim of causing significant disruption to planned flights. Far from this being a lawful protest, this is the deliberate and criminal targeting of an essential part of the UK’s national infrastructure that thousands of people rely on every day and it will not be tolerated,” Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor said Sept. 11.

The Metropolitan Police said it has a “robust policing plan” in place, to avert or minimize disruption and respond rapidly to any criminal activity.

“Protesters should note that endangering the safety of an aircraft is a very serious offense that can result in a long jail sentence,” the Metropolitan Police said in an Aug. 29 statement.

At just before 1900 local time on Sept. 12, Heathrow Pause said five of its members have been arrested in targeted police raids, including drone pilots and a media coordinator. “Five people have now been arrested before a drone has flown; we are not yet sure of the charges. The Heathrow Pause action will carry on exactly as planned, peacefully and non-violently, regardless of today’s events. We have contingency measures in place.”

Heathrow Pause has been transparent about its plans and has met with the police and airport representatives over recent weeks.

The lightweight drones will be flown within the exclusion zone—but they add the flights will be below 6 ft. away from flightpaths and Heathrow will be given at least an hour’s notice of any activity.

Once the action is complete, the drone pilots will call police, inform them of their location and surrender themselves for arrest.

In late 2018, flights at London Gatwick Airport were halted over a period of days by drone activity.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@informa.com