Hollywood Man Pleads Guilty to Unsafe Drone Operation

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I guess every type of crime needs its first offender?

With the rise of consumer-grade remote control drones in the last decade, some people have been fostering concerns about their potential illegal applications. It’s not an invalid concern; a camera-equipped drone could, in theory, be capable of all sorts of nasty things in the wrong hands. It was probably just a matter of time before the first official “drone crime” happened, though admittedly, I was expecting something a little more dramatic.

Today, Andrew Hernandez, a local man of Hollywood, California, pled guilty to the United States’ very first charge of unsafe drone operation. Hernandez entered a misdemeanor plea which could land him in federal prison for up to a year.

Apparently, back in September, an LAPD helicopter was flying over Hernandez’s home to respond to a local emergency. Hernandez, being curious and having recently acquired an RC drone, launched it into the sky to get a better look. However, he ended up flying the drone too close to the helicopter, hitting its side and throwing it off balance. The pilot attempted to evade the drone, but the damage caused by it forced him to make an emergency landing. The drone, meanwhile, fell to the ground over a nearby house, damaging a car and shattering.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt in this process, though apparently, if the drone had hit a different spot on the helicopter, the damage could’ve been far worse. “If the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,” the court documents read.

An investigation was launched, and about a month later, Hernandez’s home was raided by the FBI, at which time he admitted to his crime.

Let this be a lesson, kids: helicopters are complicated machinery. If you see one flying overhead, don’t launch a spinning lump of metal and plastic at it.

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