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  1. ITV Report

Heathrow climate activist drones protest fails to take off amid pre-emptive arrests

James Brown, a former Paralympian, is detained by police near Heathrow Airport. Credit: PA

A drone protest at Heathrow Airport failed to take off after some of the devices appeared to be prevented from working by what the climate change activists suspect were signal jammers.

Environmental protest group Heathrow Pause, a splinter group of the Extinction Rebellion movement but separate from it, had intended to fly the devices in the 5km exclusion zone around the transport hub in an attempt to disrupt flights.

The group claimed that of three attempted drone flights, at least one had flown “successfully”, although no departures from the airport had been affected.

But 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.

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Heathrow Pause named two drone pilots who were arrested on Friday morning only as Marko and Steffen and said a man named Frank, who was filming the activists, was also detained.

Former Paralympian James Brown was also arrested at Terminal 2. He told PA said there were up to 35 people willing to fly the devices throughout the day.

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

He added police had visited his home address on Thursday evening, which was part of a pre-emptive wave of arrests in which officers detained three women and four men.

The 5km exclusion zone enforced around Heathrow Airport. Credit: PA Graphics

So far, 11 people have been arrested, with Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam also among the suspected would-be pilots.

The activists being held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance within the perimeter of Heathrow Airport are aged between their 20s and their 60s.

The arrests followed five pre-emptive arrests on Thursday, when officers held suspected would-be pilots, including Extinction Rebellion co-founder, Roger Hallam, ahead of the planned action.

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Scotland Yard said a dispersal order had been put in place at Heathrow until 4.30am on Sunday “to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport”, and a large police presence was seen in the airport area on Friday morning.

In the early hours of Friday, a live stream was shared on a Heathrow Pause Twitter account, showing two people struggling to get a drone off the ground.

The two men, filming themselves near a road, said they were experiencing “a technical glitch”.

The device could be seen flashing red and green lights as the men held it above their head, but did not make it into the air.

Activists say they plan to fly drones within the 5km exclusion zone around the airport. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, planes landed at Heathrow as normal, with the first flights touching down just before 5am.

Earlier this week, a senior Metropolitan officer said advised Heathrow passengers to travel as normal and said they were “confident” disruption would be kept to a minimum.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “We will be arresting anybody who commits unlawful offences.

“We are really clear that it is unlawful, it is a criminal offence, and anybody who turns up expecting to fly drones in that exclusion zone will be arrested.”

Friday morning’s plans were 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.