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Man pleads guilty after drone hits LAPD helicopter, conviction 1st of its kind

(The AEGIS Alliance) – A Los Angeles man pleaded guilty on Thursday to a misdemeanor charge after his drone crashed right into a police helicopter, prompting an emergency landing, federal prosecutors stated.

It’s believed to be the first criminal conviction for unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft within the nation, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. 

22-year-old Andrew Rene Hernandez of Hollywood gave a guilty plea to the one count in a plea deal, court docket records show.

He flew the drone just after midnight on September 18, 2020, and as a result of him being curious after listening to a police helicopter and sirens, according to court documents.

The LAPD helicopter with two officers inside was flying after a reported burglary at a close-by pharmacy, the documents read. The pilot noticed the drone and tried to keep away from it, nevertheless, it hit the underside of the helicopter. The chopper made an emergency landing at a nearby airport.

A criminal grievance quotes an officer saying that if the drone had hit the LAPD helicopter’s most important rotor, it may have caused the helicopter to plummet and crash.

Hernandez faces as much as 12 months in jail when he’s sentenced on April 12, however, a plea deal says that prosecutors will suggest reductions in federal sentencing guidelines.

A federal public defender representing Hernandez didn’t immediately return a request for comment Thursday evening. A telephone number for Hernandez could not immediately be found.

Hernandez admitted to investigators that he operated the drone, in response to a criminal complaint. He stated the drone is difficult to see at night time, he looked down for just a few seconds at the controller, and when he looked up he noticed it was “smacked” by the hovering helicopter, court documents say.

While the conviction is the first for unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft within the U.S., it isn’t the first time somebody has been charged with unlawful acts involving a drone.

Drones have been used to drop drugs in prisons in Michigan and Ohio. Following a 2018 incident, a man in Georgia was prosecuted under a drone registration regulation, in what had been referred to as a first.

Public safety officials in Southern California have also warned about drone operations surrounding wildfires, which can delay or affect aerial firefighting operations.

Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Kyle James Lee

Majority Owner of The AEGIS Alliance. I studied in college for Media Arts, Game Development. Talents include Writer/Article Writer, Graphic Design, Photoshop, Web Design and Development, Video Production, Social Media, and eCommerce.

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