LA Man Charged After Drone Hits LAPD Helicopter

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Federal agents arrested a Los Angeles resident Thursday on charges of recklessly flying a drone into a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter.

The incident occurred this past September, when LAPD officers responding to reports of a burglary at a pharmacy in Hollywood requested air support. As the responding LAPD helicopter approached the pharmacy, the pilot saw a drone in the flight path and attempted to evade it.

Despite the pilot’s evasive maneuvering, the drone operated by 22-year-old Andrew Rene Hernandez struck the helicopter and forced an emergency landing. According to a criminal complaint against Hernandez filed Thursday in LA federal court, the helicopter’s nose, antenna and bottom cowlings were damaged by the impact with the drone. 

“If the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,” federal prosecutors say in their complaint.

A vehicle on the ground was also damaged by the drone when it fell from the sky after colliding with the LAPD helicopter.

Special agents with the FBI arrested Hernandez pursuant to the criminal complaint, which charges him with one count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft.

LAPD officers found parts of the damaged drone around the pharmacy and were able to identify Hernandez after reviewing the drone’s camera and memory card, federal prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday. The FBI also executed search warrants last month at Hernandez’s home.

According to prosecutors, Hernandez acknowledged operating the drone on Sept. 18 “to see what was going on” after hearing police sirens.

Hernandez is expected to make his initial court appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

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