If you’re taking out your brand new drone to play with, please be careful what you do with it. An unnamed pilot has been arrested in California after his drone came within 50 feet of a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter. After the chopper took evasive action, officers found the owner of the drone in a nearby car park, and he is now being questioned by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The operator of the unmanned aircraft has also had his drone confiscated. At this stage it’s not known whether he was deliberately trying to interfere with the LAPD helicopter or not, but the FAA drone guidelines state that pilots should ensure their drones “remain well clear of and do not interfere with” any manned aircraft operations in the area.
“[The drone flyby] is very hazardous,” said LAPD Sgt. Jorge Gonzalez, as SlashGear reports. “It could kill everybody onboard the aircraft and anybody you hit on the ground. These aircrafts are just under 5,000 pounds and they can carry up to 143 gallons of jet fuel.” The LAPD says the drone operator has now been released pending an investigation — aerial video recorded by the drone will be used to determine if the close encounter was intentional.
Governments and aviation authorities are scrambling to introduce tighter controls on drone use as these hobbyist aircraft cause problems for the emergency services and the occasional passenger jet. Personal drones have been banned from many national parks in the United States and from the president’s front lawn.
For now, the FAA guidelines are the best resource for knowing what you can and can’t do with a drone (the guidelines are now available in app form too). Personal drone use is separate from commercial use, which is still restricted in the U.S. — the Federal Aviation Administration is currently working out the best way forward for allowing companies to make use of drone technology.