Two Drone Flyers Arrested For Near Mishap with NYPD Helicopter

Last month, the FAA issued an explicit ban on hobby drones mainly due to the rising number of cases involving the irresponsible, reckless use of these unmanned automated vehicles. Yet, even with that ban, people keep flying their drones such as the 2 male drone flyers who were recently arrested for nearly causing a mishap with a NYPD helicopter.

Two Manhattan men were arrested early Monday after they piloted a drone close to the George Washington Bridge and nearly struck an NYPD helicopter, police sources said. Wilkins Mendoza, 34, and Remy Castro, 23, were remotely piloting a DGI Phantom 2 drone as it flew near the Hudson River crossing, at about 800 feet in the air, around midnight, the sources said. – Read more at:

‘It’s just a toy,’ Castro later tried to explain in court. ‘The copter came to us.’ Mendoza also said the drone flight had been strictly for fun. ‘We were just playing with it,’ he said. ‘It’s crazy.’ ‘This vehicle can’t go above 300 feet,’ argued attorney Michael Kushner. ‘They did nothing more than fly a kite.’ – Read more at:

Indeed, these were only toy drones, yet it almost caused a collision which might have been fatal considering they were flown in the dark, a risky move. Such reckless disregard for safety  is proving a challenge for the FAA.

There have been many incidents of dangerous use of drones, prompting the FAA to issue restrictions on all kinds of drones. A report by the Washington Post reveals:

  • In 15 cases over the past two years, drones flew dangerously close to airports or passenger aircraft, including the incidents in New York and Los Angeles, according to reports submitted to the FAA.
  • A different set of records suggests that risky midair encounters are even more common. A NASA database of confidential complaints filed by pilots and air-traffic controllers has recorded 50 other reports of close calls or improper flight operations involving drones over the past decade.
  • Civilian drones flown with the FAA’s permission and under its scrutiny are also susceptible to crashes. Since November 2009, law enforcement agencies, universities and other registered drone users have reported 23 accidents and 236 unsafe incidents, according to FAA records.

A report by states that the 2 men were charged in Manhattan Criminal Court with felony reckless endangerment.  That law states:
“A person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person.”  The report continues to explain there are 3 conditions or elements the New York case law requires to be proven beyond reasonable doubt for such conduct to be criminalized:

  • a. Reckless endangerment is about risks.
  • b. Felony reckless endangerment requires a disregard for the value of human life.
  • c. The risk of death must be imminent and grave.

Thus, the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the operation of the drones presented: 1) a risk of death, 2) that risk of death was imminent, and 3) that risk of death was grave (or serious) not merely speculative.- Read more of the report here:

Drone law is murky on this matter. The Federal Aviation Administration is the agency responsible for integrating drones into skies with manned aircraft, but so far they’ve taken a very gradual approach. The FAA guidelines say model airplanes are not supposed to fly higher than 400 feet. It also says they should avoid flying near manned aircraft, but leaves “near” undefined. – Read more:

This latest incident raises the concern of many for stronger, well-defined laws to deal with drones, for until then, improper, or impudent use of drones may continue to go unpunished or will just be meted light penalties.


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