Two Drones Nearly Collide With NYPD Chopper

Two Drones Nearly Collide With NYPD Chopper

It's always a small handful of people that begin the process of ruining it for everyone else. On Monday, two drones nearly crashed into a New York Police Department's chopper while it was going over the George Washington Bridge. Luckily, the pilots changed course to avoid the collision.According to the NY Post, the NYPD Aviation Unit helicopter was on patrol of the area at around 12:15 a.m. when it noticed two small drones coming at it. The pilot of the chopper had to change course completely in order to avoid crashing into the unmanned aircraft/drone. This could have been a huge issue had the drones hit the chopper and caused what could have been a dangerous scenario.

The NYPD was observing the drones flying at around 2,000 around the George Washing Bridge when they noticed that they were circling and heading towards the helicopter.

"Although [drones] may only weigh a few pounds, that’s all birds weigh, and look what they did to the Sully Airbus," the source said, referring to 2009’s “Miracle on the Hudson,” in which a bird strike forced US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to crash-land a jetliner in the Hudson River.

After having to change course, the chopper tailed the drones north and followed them to their landing at around 12:35 a.m. The pilots of the chopper then called the NYPD Patrol and officers responded and grabbed the suspects who were Remy Castro and Wilkins Mendoza. Both of which were arrested.

One of the worst parts of this entire situation are the responses the suspects gave which show how irresponsible they were and how they had a clear careless mentality even after being arrested.

"It's Just a toy," said Castro to the Manhattan Criminal Court.

Both Castro and Mendoza were arraigned on felony reckless endangerment charges and released without bail. Also, according the the nypost.com, Mendoza was even quoted to have been saying the drone experiment was just fun and games and that they feel this entire situation is just crazy.

These drones do act and look the size of most toys, but that does not mean they are just that. There needs to be responsibility taken and attention to safety hazards when flying all types of drones. They can truly hurt people. A personal friend of mine was hit in the hand with a drone of his when first starting and left the hospital with 16 stiches. It only takes a few mistakes for drones to start having many laws placed on them. Sure, you can argue that their drone would not have even made it within a few feet of the chopper before being blown away from the gust of wind being created, but that should not change the fact that we should not be flying them at other flying objects.

I've already seen mixed reviews on this topic and would love to know, do you feel Mendoza and Castro are in the wrong in this situation?

[You can read more on this story at nypost.com || featured image via nypost.com]

Posted In: 
Log in or register to post comments

39 Comments

"It's always a small handful of people that begin the process of ruining it"
In a previous article on the fireworks drone, Fstoppers thinks the video is great and so were the comments. Idiots like these two pilots and the fireworks drone pilot will ruin it for everyone. A couple of weeks back, at the LA Kings rally, a drone flew close to the crowd. Luckily, the crowds took care of the drone and that pilot will not be flying it again.

Adam Ottke's picture

The difference here is that the fireworks drone was over a body of water where no one really was. Going up into the Disneyland fireworks -- now that's another story. I think normal precautions were taken with the other video. But flying a so-called "toy" at or even near a helicopter is unbelievable...

John White's picture

I agree with Adam. The situation is completely different where as the drone in the firework video had a landing with no one under it and in this case, we have drones flying at choppers which actually had to move out of the way after recognizing the situation.

Kevin Sutton's picture

There are differences with these incidents yes but the biggest issue here IMO is that both of these drones were in excess of the 400ft limit. Above this your entering commercial and general aviation traffic. Minimum safe altitude for populated areas is 500ft and over congested areas is 1,000ft above the highest obstacle. Regardless of how small the device is it could cause severe damage or worse to an aircraft traveling at speed. Like I said the previous fireworks post. These devices are becoming cheap enough that just about anyone can buy them. DJI has been known to just fly away in its attitude gps mode which is what they are flying and not in manual mode. I don't believe they need to be banned. But I personally would welcome a licensing/training system possibly to fly them via video commercially. If you want to fly higher better get on the radio and call the tower be legit don't just assume it is safe and think the "toy" won't harm anything.

We are back in the wild west again and the FAA is doing a knee jerk reaction for it's original inaction to get something done.

Adam Ottke's picture

My goodness... You're absolutely right about SOMEONE ruining it for others. But it was bound to happen.

I completely believe that we should have the right to fly drones as unrestrictedly as possible. However, there are certainly numerous issues with this -- these recent incidents being just the beginning of them. Someone is always going to screw up or do something wrong. And with a drone, which seriously can cause some damage and even loss of life, we need to be even more careful.

I really do fear incidents like these will outlaw drones or make it extremely difficult to purchase and/or legally fly them with proper and elaborate permits.

Honestly, I wouldn't be opposed to a system whereby people would get licenses. If you could renew it every several years and run the risk of paying hefty fines and/or losing the license permanently for irresponsible behavior, at least it would be safer and people could have a better way to go about using drones.

Still, ask me yesterday before I saw this what I thought, and I never would have suggested such a thing... Sad that we can't just all trust everyone and use common sense. I don't know which to pity more: our world for having to deal with people with no common sense or those people with no common sense themselves....

I agree about getting licenses to use them. Most heavy equipment requires a safety class and license to operate and it would be easy to implement them under that system.

I'm not sure how I feel about drones at all since I know very little about them. They are a cheap way to get some decent aerial shots if you are safe and use some common sense. Honestly, I didn't know they would ever be in a situation to share space with helicoptors in the first place unless it was on take off or landing. So I'm a little surprised that some people went out of their way to use some expensive toys to harass police in the air.

I can see my state implementing drones into the professional license department, where you have to have to take a class and have a license to be using one (like a forklift). Hopefully a reasonable solution can be made so they aren't banned altogether or having to pull permits to use them or the FAA regulating them or something crazy.

Jaron Schneider's picture

I'm unconvinced that a DJI Phantom could get anywhere near a real helicopter. Why? Because the wind currents generated by the rotors would blow it away before it came close. A slight breeze can send one of these things flying, and helicopter rotors generate a lot more than just a slight breeze.

My physics is rusty but I believe for every push there has to be a pull. I really feel like your comment minimizes the situation. This is coming from someone who is medical control for a flight team that flies low and fast around the city to help others.

Jaron Schneider's picture

I mean I'm totally open to being wrong (I'm wrong a lot). I just feel like a test needs to be run.

I have been on a windy beach with a drone and it can easily handle wind. I'm not sure how close it could get to a helicopter but it's a lot more powerful than you think. They use GPS to control their position, so it doesn't position itself relative to the wind conditions around it. The responsibility is definitely on the person controlling the drone.

Jaron Schneider's picture

I guess I was citing my personal experience with a drone, when a slight breeze kicked up and knocked a drone that was owned by a friend of mine into a tree branch and destroyed it. This was a very slight little gust as well.

Adam Ottke's picture

Try putting that dji phantom right ABOVE the rotors...easy, totally doable, and a completely catastrophic possibility...

Jaron Schneider's picture

Oh yeah, that makes sense. Point taken.

That was my push pull comment.

Patrick Hall's picture

I really would like to see this done. The DJI blades can cut grass and maybe a small twig (and skin of course)....but a real helicopter blade can chop a tree down! It's all speculation of course but I could totally see a helicopter blade destroying a DJI and nothing happening to the copter. Mythbusters needs to get on this ASAP!

Obviously a DJI going into a plane's engine would be similar to a bird and we know how catastrophic that can be.

Adam Ottke's picture

Yeah...I wouldn't want to see that. Those blades can get fractured...and the tail rotor is even more crucial compared to how fragile it is... Best case scenario: yeah, the blade tips it on the end and sends it flying away from everything. Worst case: lose any part of a blade and between intense vibrations from the oscillating blade and completely losing it -- something bad is going to happen. The things is, the dji phantoms are small, but it's still a relatively thin piece of metal swinging extremely quickly and slamming into that...

There is a thin line between above and below the rotors. Above them it would get sucked down and cause a stress fracture resulting in failure. Below it might get washed out or caused to cycle back into the rotors. Watch a video of a copter in dust or heavy rain. If it hits the tail then the copter crashes from loosing it counter gyration.

Richard Wensel's picture

I just got done watching this video before seeing this article. These are the exact people these 2 guys are talking about in this video.

Flite Test- FAA Ban On FPV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYs815t4knQ

Adam Ottke's picture

Very interesting...yeah. But these people have a point... If you're in the middle of nowhere like these guys are, what's wrong with that...? There needs to be some balance to these laws -- really.

Yeah, middle of nowhere with a helicopter...
M

Kevin Sutton's picture

Flite -Test has been a good resource for Model Aviators since it's inception.

Jason Ranalli's picture

I'm going to sound like a curmudgeon that is the minority in the photo/drone "community" but good...get these things outlawed before someone gets hurt. The last thing I want to see is some drone dive bombing my kid due to some system failure or poor pilot.

The bottom line is this...we don't make laws in this country based on the fact that YOU are capable of maintaining common sense and safely piloting a drone we make laws based on the lowest common denominator of human being.

I can drive safely at 100 mph down the highway...but the law is not written for me. It's written for the folks that struggle to drive safely and process incoming information at 55mph.

IF this story is true & frankly I'm doubting the credibility of this story after reading other outlets of media the 2 "drone pilots" mentioned/arrested are not very smart. IF they did what was purported, what they did was akin to aiming a laser pointer into an aircraft cabin, except with far more potentially disastrous results. IF they are indeed found guilty, grounding these 2 "drone pilots" for good should do the trick & will go a long way to preventing copy cat "pilots" from doing something similar. I'm a responsible drone pilot myself. Use your brain, Fly responsibly, don't endanger people/property.

Vince Smith's picture

I own 2 DJI phantoms vision 2 and vision 2+ they are very controllable in very high wind these guys are STUPID they are a tools not toys .....and my uncle is a pilot for a commercial airline company so I take this very seriously what needs to happen is they need to be registered and since they link to satellite they need a radar signature that's a firmware update. Also when a on coming aircraft is approaching there needs to be a protocol that air crafts let out a ping/radar blip and in the Quadcopters in the software understand where its at that make it drop to lets say to 120 feet 3 or 4 miles out or 10 miles who cares safety is the main concern. That's taller than any tree and most buildings excluding sky scrapers smart asses giving the aircraft and Quadcopter enough time to safely divert one another paths. We have to be smart about this and not jump the gun on any public or government agencies side drone are here we need to deal with this smartly so everyone's happy

Is it really needed to fly at 2000ft with a DJI Phantom? For the general public, do we really need be above 300 feet (a football field)? This is a matter of a simple firmware. Pros can buy the stuff that can go higher or be licensed... This thing is either a toy or a tool and should be treated that way. IMHO: it is a tool.

Imagine a NERF gun shooting with the ballistic capabilities of an assault rifle...

Bo Bickley's picture

I bought the first generation DJI Phantom right when they came out. I now own several "flying platforms" quad, hex, X-8. Y-6, T-6 all custom built. It doesn't matter the type, they are all flying cuisinarts (food processors). Put a carbon fiber blade on a high torque brushless DC motor and you have a lethal spinning object.

Regardless of those facts there is something even more problematic here. Few Phantom owners have ever read the complete manual. Fewer even know what the blinking lights mean, GPS Lock, Atti, or RTH. Even fewer still even know how to fly the damn thing in manual mode. Why manual mode? Because what happens when the flight controller just decides to freak out or looses GPS lock? A very simple comparison, do you shoot in M or P? If your camera decides to take a horrid picture in P mode, well you got what you asked for. If your Phantom decides to freak out or you loose a prop because you didn't do a pre-flight check, well you also got what you asked for but it will most likely involve others.

Do I think there should be some type of certification, yes. Why? Hmmm, what is it we're commenting on? People who don't think they're doing anything wrong and obviously don't even know the rules for "Hobby Aircraft" and are putting people and property in danger. If you want to fly in the middle of nowhere that's great, it's the perfect place to learn. Like your camera, it does take time to be truly proficient in learning to fly one without it thinking for you. Idiots will be idiots and there is no amount of laws or regulations that can prevent them from being so.

Kevin Sutton's picture

Great analogies Bo!

There will always be those people that will do stupid things. If those of us who have common sense and can put the technology to good use don't educate people it will all be gone. The Phantoms that are popping up in every camera store kind of bothers me. They are selling these crafts to folks who may or may not have ever piloted or controlled an aircraft. While it is true you can take it out of the box, charge it up and take it up. But what if it decides to have a mind of its own. Oh yeah switch it to manual mode..wait...now it doesn't keep its stable platform it pitches and yaws until you the user changes it. What if the video feed breaks up at 500ft or higher and the GPS is out or your quad doesn't have one equipped? Yep it is a speck in the sky if that.

The technology should be available to those who want to use it. However you should be able to demonstrate the use of such a craft and be certified/licensed. The Phantom can definitely put some hurt on you find yourself in the blades.

BTW how do you like your Y6?

Bo Bickley's picture

I feel the Y-6 and X-8 platforms are much more stable in windy environments due to the motor configurations. Redundancy though still goes to the Octos. A motor failure there can be the difference in landing safely or not.

Kevin Sutton's picture

Thanks, I was considering building a Y6 for a new fun copter capable of lifting an small mirrorless. Octo for sure on a job as you stated for at chance to keep the bird in the air to land.

Pages