A Hollywood man who flew a drone that crashed into an LAPD helicopter last year was sentenced to a $500 fine and probation.

Andrew Rene Hernandez was sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft in January. It was the first time a drone operator was charged under the federal statute. He could have received one year in federal prison.

On the morning of September 18, LAPD officers responding to a burglary call at a Hollywood pharmacy asked for air support. As the helicopter was on its way, the pilot saw Hernandez’ drone in mid-air and tried to evade it, but struck the helicopter and had to do an emergency landing.

The drone damaged the helicopter’s nose, antenna and bottom cowlings, according to court papers. Prosecutors said “if the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down.”

Officers identified Hernandez as the owner after looking at the camera’s SD card. The FBI later served a search warrant at Hernandez’ home, where he admitted to flying the drone after hearing police cars because he “wanted to see what was going on,” according to court papers.

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

“It’s critical for all drone operators to understand that as soon as they start flying outside, they are pilots with the responsibility to operate safely, just like pilots of manned aircraft,” the FAA said after Hernandez’ arrest. “While our preference is to educate, we don’t hesitate to take strong enforcement action when warranted.”

Source: Patch

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