L.A. Drone Pilot Avoids Prison

 - April 13, 2021, 9:49 AM

The pilot of an illegally operated drone that hit a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) helicopter last year has been fined $500 and sentenced to one year’s probation. Andrew Rene Hernandez was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft in January. It was the first time a drone operator was charged under the federal statute. He could have received one year in federal prison. 

The charges resulted from a flight conducted by Hernandez shortly after midnight on Sept. 18, 2020. Hernandez said he launched his DJI Mavic Pro to investigate police activity at a nearby Hollywood pharmacy. While an LAPD Airbus Helicopters AStar was flying above the pharmacy at approximately 12:35 a.m., its pilot saw and unsuccessfully attempted to avoid the drone, which struck the helicopter, damaging its nose, antenna, and bottom cowling.

The helicopter then proceeded directly to the LAPD Hooper Heliport (4CAO) and made a precautionary landing. LAPD flight safety officer J. Coley Maddigan told investigators that had the drone struck the aircraft’s main rotor it would have brought the helicopter down. Pieces of the drone also fell through the rear window of a nearby unoccupied Toyota Corolla.