HOLLYWOOD HILLS—Federal Agents of the FBI arrested Hollywood Denizen, Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, on Thursday, November 19, after he allegedly crashed his drone into the cabin and nose cone of a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) helicopter, in what is “believed to be the first criminal case in the nation alleging the unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The crash came after a September 18 Hollywood burglary, in which LAPD officers were forced to request helicopter air-support.
Approaching the scene, the LAPD Helicopter encountered a fast-approaching drone obstructing their air-way, and further, coming in for imminent collision. A quick maneuvering effort, made by the helicopter operator to evade the drone, made no difference. The drone collided with the helicopter’s fuselage and caused tremendous damage, forcing the helicopter to emergency land as a result.
“If the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,” an LAPD officer said in a criminal complaint, filed in the United States District Court, regarding the incident.
Following the events of the crash, LAPD officers and FBI officials led an investigation to ascertain the identity of the drone’s owner and the owner’s motivations. Upon discovery of the drone’s camera footage and its embedded SD card, officials connected Hernandez as the likely culprit.
Hernandez, according to the press release, admitted that he had flown the drone on the date of the accident, Sep.18, after hearing police sirens and a fast approaching helicopter in his neighborhood. Hernandez wanted “to see what was going on.”
Immediately after launching the drone, Hernandez said he witnessed that his unmanned aircraft and the LAPD helicopter had “smacked” together; his drone had fallen into the yard of a nearby home soon after, Hernandez stated.
Hernandez was arrested Wednesday, on charges of one count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft.
If convicted Hernandez could face a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison.
Hernandez had his first court hearing Thursday, November 19, in the United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.