LA Man Pleads Guilty After Drone Hits LAPD Helicopter, 1st Criminal Conviction of Its Kind

Admin Emergency Services, Flex Air News, UAV Drones

On January 15, 2021, a Los Angeles man pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge after his drone crashed into an LAPD helicopter. Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, was flying his drone past midnight on September 18 because he became curious after hearing a police helicopter and sirens. Hernandez pleaded guilty to the count in a plea agreement on Thursday.

According to the court document, the helicopter with two officers inside was flying after responding to a nearby pharmacy burglary. The officers saw the drone and tried to prevent the accident, but it hit the helicopter’s bottom. They were forced to perform an emergency landing at an airport afterward. A criminal complaint stated that if the drone had struck a critical component, it could have easily caused a helicopter crash.

For this reason, Hernandez faces up to a year prison term, with the sentencing expected to take place on April 12. However, a plea agreement suggests that prosecutors will propose a reduction in federal sentencing guidelines. Hernandez admitted to operating the drone and stated that the drone is difficult to see at night. He said that he looked down at the controller, and once he noticed the helicopter, it was hit by the hovering chopper.

The Office for the Central District of California of U.S. Attorney said this is considered the first criminal conviction for precarious operations of unmanned aircraft in the nation. Nevertheless, it is common for people to be charged with illegal activities involving drones. In Ohio and Michigan, drones have been used to deliver drugs in prisons. Related charges also saw a Georgian man prosecuted in 2018. Southern California Public Safety officials warned drone operations in wildfire fields because it can impact aerial firefighting and associated delays.

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