A Hollywood man pleaded guilty Thursday to recklessly operating a drone that crashed into a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter, forcing an emergency landing last year, officials said.
Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, launched his drone towards a police helicopter shortly after midnight Sept. 18, 2020, when he heard police vehicles near his home and was “curious about the commotion,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release.
The pilot of the helicopter saw the drone approaching and tried to evade it, but it struck the aircraft, damaging its fuselage, officials said.
While the pilot was able to initiate an emergency landing, “if the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,” according to a criminal complaint in this case.
The drone fell from the sky and slammed into a car.
Using the drone’s camera and SD card, officers were able to identify Hernandez as the drone’s operator, officials said.
Hernandez pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft. He now faces a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“This conviction is believed to be the nation’s first criminal conviction for the unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Hernandez’s sentencing hearing was scheduled for April 12.