Man Faces $250K Fine, Prison Time for Hitting Police Helicopter with Drone

A California man has pled guilty to the charge of hitting a Police Helicopter with his drone. The crime of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft carries up to one year in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Andrew Hernandez of California pled guilty to flying his DJI Mavic Pro into a police helicopter after launching the drone in an attempt to see a crime scene near his Hollywood home in September of 2020. According to the plea agreement, he flew the drone into the path of a police helicopter that was in the process of responding to a burglary and hit its fuselage, forcing it to make an emergency landing.

Luckily no one was harmed as a result of the incident, though it could have been much worse. If the drone had made contact with either of the helicopter’s rotors, it may have been brought down.

Photo by Pedro Henrique Santos.

Hernandez is set to be sentenced on April 12th, and while he is unlikely to face jail time, if he were to it would not be a first. A man was sentenced to 30 days in prison in 2017 for crashing a drone into a group of people and knocking a woman unconscious.

While consumer-level drones from DJI and other manufacturers are built-in with multiple software walls for safety (such as height, takeoff, and location restrictions), it is still possible to override some of them and it is always possible to fly without taking proper precautions. It is likely that Hernandez flew his drone beyond line of sight in order to get a glimpse of the crime scene that interested him as well as push his drone higher than he should have.

(via The Verge)

Image credits: Header image by CHUTTERSNAP.

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