High-Flying Drone Forces Police Helicopter to Make Evasive Maneuvers in California

Drone 1 photo
Photo: Don McCullough on Flickr
As it so often happens, in the highly-debated case of drones legislation, it’s also the enthusiasts who are doing most damage to their cause. The latest example is this close call between a privately owned drone and a California Highway Police (CHP) chopper.
The police describes the incident as a “near miss” and the “near” part is mostly due to the pilot’s promptly executed evasive actions. The Chopper was flying at night over Martinez heading east when a red light appeared right outside the cabin. The natural reaction when you’re piloting a highly-unstable and relatively fragile aircraft in this situation is to try and avoid a collision at all cost, and ask questions later.

Still, the pilot had enough time to determine it was a drone. Since the crew was out looking for a stolen car, the spotlight was ready for action. Lighting up the UAV, the chopper followed it to its final landing position, and then sent the local Martinez police to that address.

Sgt. Fred Ferrer was the first at the scene, just in time to catch a man carrying a drone off his front yard. The officer questioned the man, but there was no arrest. However, a federal investigation that could lead to the suspect being charged will follow, as he was flying his UAV at altitudes of 700-800 feet (215-250 meters).

Speaking about the incident, Officer James Andrews, CHP air operations unit spokesman, told SFGATE: “Absolute worst-case scenario: The drone could come through the window and take out the pilot, and the helicopter could come down.

The fact of the matter is that drones are becoming increasingly popular and also more and more accessible, so their number is about to rise. Besides the risk of people turning them into turkey-roasting flying flamethrowers, the simple fact that the sky could soon be full of them might pose a significant danger to other flying aircraft.

That’s something James Andrews is perfectly aware of. “It’s definitely something that’s very concerning to us,” he said. “With more people getting drones over the holidays, it is going to get worse.” His advice on drone usage involves “using common sense,” flying at low altitudes and away from other people’s private properties. A chopper pilot himself, he also lets out a little steam: “If your level of aircraft experience is that you ordered something from Amazon, you ought to stay out of the federal air traffic system.” Ouch.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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