Yesterday, a drone nearly struck a police helicopter near the George Washington Bridge in New York City. Or, a police helicopter nearly struck a drone.
It sounds insane, but it wouldn’t be the first time a police helicopter went after a drone. Late last month, a drone pilot in Great Falls, Virginia, posted footage of a law enforcement helicopter trying to push his drone into the Potomac River.
In that incident, there is video evidence of the drone being in the air before it was approached by the police. But back to what happened in New York City yesterday. A police spokesperson told me that Wilkins Mendoza and Remy Castro, both of NYC, were “observed by our aviation unit operating the drone near the George Washington Bridge.”
“They weren’t called in to do this job, they were on routine patrol,” the NYPD spokesperson told me. “They flew very close to the aviation unit, causing the aviation unit to change its course to avoid it.”
Here, the timeline matters. There’s nothing in the New York Post’s story or in the NYPD spokesperson’s comments to me that suggest Mendoza and Castro purposefully went after a police drone. And if the NYPD really believed that, the two wouldn’t have been released from court without bail.
Flying near a bridge, in and of itself, is not a crime. It might raise some eyebrows, but lots of people have flown drones near the bridges of New York City, and even when the police have gotten involved, they’ve had no grounds to arrest the pilots. Until yesterday.
Castro and Mendoza were both arrested on charges of felony reckless endangerment, charges that the defendants told the New York Post are unfounded.
“The copter came to us,” Castro said in court.
The paper reports that the chopper “tailed the drones” after the close call.
I’ve been unable to reach Castro, Mendoza, or their lawyer—calls to the lawyer’s office went unanswered—but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that a police helicopter saw the drone, came at it, and, voila, police suddenly have a real charge to levy on them. It sounds crazy, until you take a look at what happened in Great Falls.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com