Environmental campaigners have announced their intention to ground flights at Heathrow by flying drones in the airport’s restricted zone.

Heathrow Pause says it will operate small toy drones from 0300 on Friday September 13.

The Guardian quoted a spokesperson for the group as saying that “somewhere between 50 to a couple of hundred people” would each fly a drone, and that the disruption could last several days.

“From September 13, we will exploit a loophole in Heathrow airport’s health and safety protocols and fly toy drones within its restricted zone,” the group said.

“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. We have lives, we have families, we do not wish to go to prison. But we are steadfast in our resolve. We do this in defence of life. We do it because our consciences leave us no other choice but to act.”

The airport will apparently be given an hour’s notice before each flight, with drones flown at regular intervals to stop any aircraft taking off in accordance with Heathrow regulations.

In March, new UK legislation came into force that extended ‘no-fly’ zones around airports for drones and model aircraft from 1km to 5km.

It came after widespread disruption at Gatwick Airport last Christmas caused by drone sightings.

The current plan has been criticised not only because of the disruption to passengers and safety concerns, but because flight diversions may actually lead to additional pollution.

At the start of the summer, activist group Extinction Rebellion announced it would fly drones near Heathrow to cause a “pause” in flights during June and July, but later called off the action.

Heathrow told Sky News:

“Flying of any form of drone near Heathrow is illegal and any persons found doing so will be subject to the full force of the law.”

“We are working closely with the Met Police and will use our own drone detection capability to mitigate the operational impact of any illegal use of drones near the airport.”

The Metropolitan Police said:

“Any drone flown into the path of an aircraft has the potential to cause great harm and endanger those on board.

“Anyone caught illegally using a drone within the proximity of an airport can expect to be dealt with in line with the law.”

Heathrow Pause is a splinter group of Extinction Rebellion, but the main organisation has released a statement disassociating itself from any airport disruption. It wrote:

“It is clear that people in the movement have had different views around this proposed action and that tension has arisen from figuring out the most effective way to tell the truth about the Climate and Ecological Emergency we face.

“Therefore, Extinction Rebellion UK neither condones nor condemns the action and will not be supporting it in any way. Those that choose to become involved do so as individuals just as they can become involved in other social movements and networks separate to Extinction Rebellion.”

Some passengers already face disruption next month due to a planned strike by British Airways pilots scheduled for September 9, 10 and 27.