Hollywood man pleads guilty to federal charge for slamming drone into an LAPD helicopter

Hollywood man, 22, faces up to ONE year behind bars after he pleads guilty to federal charges for accidentally slamming a drone into LAPD helicopter in first criminal case of its kind

  • Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft
  • Hernandez faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and is slated to be sentenced in April
  • The drone collided with the LAPD helicopter on September 18 last year
  • It damaged the helicopter’s nose while two police were inside, and forced them to make an emergency landing 
  • The FBI raided Hernandez’s home in October and he was arrested in November
  • Hernandez was identified from the memory card of the downed drone

A Hollywood man faces up to a year in prison after accidentally slamming his drone slammed into an LAPD helicopter, forcing it to make an emergency landing last year.

Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft and his conviction is believed to be the first in the nation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Cops responding to a burglary call at a pharmacy in Hollywood requested air support on September 18, according to the complaint filed in United States District Court. 

Hernandez heard police sirens near his home and the helicopter overhead. Curious about the police activity, he flew his drone ‘to see what was going on,’ according to court documents.

Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, has pleaded guilty to unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft

His conviction is believed to be the first in the nation and he's set for sentencing in April

His conviction is believed to be the first in the nation and he’s set for sentencing in April

The pilot saw Hernandez’s drone as it was ascending and attempted to evade it, but were not successful.

The drone ‘smacked’ into the helicopter, which had two police officers inside, damaging its nose, antenna and bottom cowlings – and forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.

‘If the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,’ an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint reads.

Cops found parts of the drone near nearby and identified Hernandez from its memory card

Cops found parts of the drone near nearby and identified Hernandez from its memory card

Cops found parts of the drone near the pharmacy and discovered a car damaged by the drone when it dropped from the sky.

Investigators reviewed the drone’s camera and memory card, which identified Hernandez as its operator. The FBI raided his home in October, when he admitted to operating the drone.

Cops arrested Hernandez in November during National Drone Safety Awareness Week, which is sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration and seeks to promote drone safety.


You must not fly above 400ft (120m) and must keep a direct line of sight. 

You must not fly your drone near emergencies such as car crashes, firefighting, and search and rescues.  

You can only fly drones during the day. 

You must not operate your drone in restricted areas such as near airports. 

You must not fly above crowded areas such as sporting events and beaches. 

Hernandez is slated to be sentenced on April 12.

According to federal law, a drone operator can be charged with unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft if the person either knowingly or recklessly interferes with an aircraft carrying at least one occupant. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has noted evidence of a ‘considerable increase in the unauthorized use of small, inexpensive [drones] by individuals and organizations.’

Drone operators are required to register any drones that weigh more than 250 grams with the FAA, according to the agency’s website

Drones under that weight limit and that are being used recreationally or as a hobby do not need to be registered with the FAA.

Federal law requires drone operators who are required to register to show their certificate of registration to any law enforcement officer if asked, the FAA said.

Failure to register a drone can result in civil penalties up to $27,500 or criminal fines up to $250,000 and up to three years in prison. 

How drones could tear up a plane or helicopter

Drones weighing as little as 400g can smash a helicopter windscreen, demonstrating how the devices pose a critical safety risk to aircraft.

One weighing 2kg could critically damage an airliner’s windscreen, according to research funded by the Department for Transport.

Scientists at the University of Dayton Research Institute flung a DJI Phantom 4 drone into the sky from a cannon to see what would happen when it collides with a Mooney M20 plane.

They worked to mimic a midair collision between a 2.1-lb drone and an airplane at a speed of 238mph.

They shot the drone into the air using a 2,800lb steel cannon with a 12-inch bore. 

Within three hundredths of a second, the drone smashed into the plane’s wing.

While many might think the drone would be destroyed upon impact, it actually tore open the plane.

The fast-spinning propellars on the drone ended up tearing through the plane’s wing, which damaged its main spar. For comparison purposes, the researchers also fired a similarly weighted gel ‘bird’ into a different part of the wing to see what its impact would be.

University of Dayton captured the crash using a 10,000-frame-per-second camera. They hope to conduct additional tests using similar and larger drones on other aerospace structures, including windscreens and engines, to show just how catastrophic drone collisions can be.


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