FBI arrests drone pilot after crashing UAS into LAPD helicopter

This morning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a drone pilot from Hollywood on a federal charge alleging that he recklessly operated an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that crashed into and damaged a helicopter from the Los Angeles Police Department.

FBI arrests drone pilot after crashing UAS into LAPD helicopter

The helicopter pilot was forced to start an emergency landing after the drone damaged the LAPD aircraft. After the collision with the LAPD helicopter, the UAS fell from the sky and damaged another vehicle.

This morning the FBI arrested Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, following a criminal complaint that was filed on Wednesday, charging Hernandez with one count of unsafe operation of a drone.

The complaint, that was filed in the United States District Court, states that early in the morning on September 18, officers from the LAPD responded to a burglary call at a pharmacy in Hollywood.

Once at the location, police officers requested air support and a helicopter from the LAPD flew to the location. The helicopter pilot noticed the drone as he was approaching the pharmacy.

The pilot tried to evade the unmanned aircraft but was unsuccessful in doing so. The drone collided with the LAPD helicopter, forcing the pilot to perform an emergency landing.

The helicopter’s nose, antenna, and bottom cowlings were damaged as a result of colliding with the drone.

“if the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,”the complaint states.

FBI arrests drone pilot after crashing UAS into LAPD helicopter

Andrew Hernandez taking a dronie with what seems to be a DJI drone at hisHollywood residence on May 28, 2020, in a photo released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Information on SD card led to the FBI arresting drone pilot Hernandez

Officers on the ground were able to find parts of the drone near the pharmacy and also discovered that a vehicle was damaged by the drone falling from the sky.

Using information from the drone’s memory card the FBI was able to identify Hernandez as the drone pilot and arrest him.

In late October additional search warrants were executed by the FBI at Hernandez’s residence.

After hearing police vehicles and an approaching helicopter right after midnight on September 18, Hernandez admitted that he sent his drone up “to see what was going on.”

After ascending his drone, Hernandez witnessed his unmanned aircraft being “smacked” by the hovering LAPD helicopter. The complaint states that the drone fell to the ground at a nearby residence.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California, Hernandez is expected to make his initial appearance in the District Court, downtown Los Angeles, this afternoon.

If convicted, Hernandez could face up to one year in federal prison for the unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft, which is a misdemeanor.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the LAPD are investigating the case, with the assistance of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Hernandez’s arrest and the criminal case against him for flying a drone in an unsafe manner, are believed to be a first in the United States, even though there have been other close calls.

This news of the FBI arresting a drone pilot comes during the FAA’s National Drone Safety Awareness Week.

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Haye Kesteloo

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