In the latest chapter of the Los Angeles Police Department’s ongoing saga with unmanned aerial devices, a hobby drone derailed an LAPD helicopter this week while the police aircraft was attempting to locate a suspect in Hollywood.
ABC7 in LA reports the drone came within 50 feet of the LAPD vehicle, redirecting the police’s attention towards finding the amateur operator. Eventually, authorities said they found the drone pilot in a Rite Aid parking lot. The man was taken into custody for interfering with police work, and the LAPD confiscated the drone. Authorities did not release the drone pilot’s name according to ABC7, but the man was questioned by the police and will face further scrutiny. The Federal Aviation Administration will reportedly question him as well, and a forensics lab will examine the video captured by the drone to determine whether this encounter was on purpose.
“It is very hazardous,” LAPD pilot Sgt. Jorge Gonzalez told ABC7. “It could kill everybody onboard the aircraft and anybody you hit on the ground. These aircrafts are just under 5,000 pounds and they can carry up to 143 gallons of jet fuel.”
Almost exactly one year ago, the LAPD made headlines for coming out harshly against another drone operator. Daniel Saulmon, 42, had been arrested previously for filming police on the ground, so instead he took to the skies. LAPD confronted Saulmon outside its Hollywood station, telling him he was trespassing for using a drone to capture footage of the station’s parking lot. Cops ordered him to stop, but eventually the incident was posted to YouTube.
Inevitably as drones become more accessible for everyday individuals, incidents of them encountering authorities (intentional or not) will continue to spring up. Within the last year alone, amateur drones have had close run-ins with Lufthansa planes trying to land, tanker helicopters in California fighting fires, and even the park directly across from the White House.