A few months ago, drone hobbyist Andrew Hernandez blew off FAA rules in order to catch a bird’s eye view of a potential burglary in the Hollywood Hills before accidentally colliding into an LAPD helicopter. Last week, he made history as the first criminal conviction for unsafely using a drone in United States history.
While the helicopter was able to land safely with minimal damage, prosecutors claimed the incident could have easily taken down the aircraft if the drone had hit the main rotor. Due to American drone laws being so new and untested, the federal prosecution team pursued the case to make sure the law regarding reckless drone flights is crystal clear in the future
Hernandez pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor count as part of a plea deal to reduce his time in prison which, as of the time of this writing, is set to up to a year for the offense.
One of the largest problems with Hernandez’s flight is that he didn’t check the airspace restrictions and flew his drone at night. In his interview with investigators, he admitted that he’d lost visual line of sight of his drone. While trying to find his position on his controller, the drone collided with the helicopter.
While this isn’t the first criminal case involving a drone, it will be the nation’s first regarding the actual flight processes of a drone pilot. With the FAA slowly easing restrictions across the country, this may indicate a change in federal prosecutors’ willingness to crack down on the laws and restrictions that remain on the books.
To find out more about the case, click here.