The pilot of a drone that struck and damaged a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) helicopter in September has pleaded guilty to a sole count of misdemeanor unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled April 12 for Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, who could receive up to one year in federal prison. Hernandez said he launched his drone last September 18 at approximately 12:18 a.m. to investigate police activity at a nearby pharmacy.
A responding LAPD AStar unsuccessfully tried to evade the drone. The helicopter suffered damage to its nose, antenna, and bottom cowling. Following the collision, pieces of the DJI Mavic Pro drone, s/n 08Q3G9KP01W033, fell through the rear window of a nearby unoccupied Toyota Corolla car. LAPD recovered the wreckage and used its serial number, onboard video, and witness tips to trace it back to Hernandez.
The LAPD drone collision follows a similar one between a drone and an electronic newsgathering helicopter being operated for Los Angeles television station KABC in 2019. In that accident, the drone punctured, dented, and scraped the leading edge of the right horizontal stabilizer immediately forward of the tail rotor. In both cases, the helicopters made safe precautionary landings.