First off these guys were in the wrong and got caught, I am not defending the stupidity of flying close to an aircraft. However, to create a story with a headline "nearly hit" misleading most. Drones can be dangerous if flown next to aircraft. This is theoretically possible and flyers should stay away to avoid being arrested or at fault for a death!! 

Original story with photos here:


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. An NYPD helicopter crew spotted the drone and observed the unmanned aircraft as it circled the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge over the Harlem River about 12:20 a.m., the sources said.

At one point, the NYPD helicopter pilot had to veer off course to avoid being struck by the drone, the sources said.

The helicopter crew followed the drone and watched it touch down at Fairview Ave. and Fort George Hill in Inwood.

Mendoza and Castro, both of Inwood, were arrested at the landing zone at 12:34 a.m., and police also recovered a second drone, the sources said.

Both men were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on a single felony count of Class D reckless endangerment, a charge stemming from the fact the pilot said he felt the drone endangered the NYPD helicopter.

But a prosecutor requested the men be released without bail, and a judge agreed.

A prosecutor told the judge that police reported the drone as having flown 2,000 feet in the air, but a defense attorney said the model used can only fly at heights of 300 feet.  

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  • I read the article and it seems to me a bit exaggerated. Flying at night at 800 meters this small DJI drone which looks like a plastic toy is not realistic. Most important are other things:

    1. The helicopter pilot was flying lower. What was the real altitude is not clear. My guess is that he reported 800 m because he was flying too low and actually violated the rules. The city where I live I see ambulance helicopters flying over the city at a small altitude, hard to estimate it exactly but my guess is about 300 meters. This is dangerous also for city inhabitants not to mention the noise, when they fly over my building it feels like a small earthquake. If I fly a rc plane I can easily go to 300 meters and then I will create a "hazardous" situation for the helicopter. But why they are allowed to fly so low?

    2. The drone was followed by a heli after it was "near collision" and the operator landed and recovered the drone. Maybe the operator was not aware that he is flying near a helicopter or did not saw the helicopter at all. This is the greatest danger already experienced by military operators - single camera can give you a view over your point of interest but you have no idea what's going on around your plane. This is something not covered in hobby drones at all. Bigger drones used by military will probably apply some collision detection and avoidance which will prevent them from crashing with other planes, but the small sized UAVs have no possibility to carry a radar as example. A system like ADS-B for UAVs can be a good solution, of course the aviation industry will prevent any hobby guy from entering in this field by applying licensees and regulations. So what should be the real solution? 

  • AOPA on hazardous attitudes of pilots...

  • My take, police helo cruising by spots the Phantom (probably filming the bridge lights) and pulls in to take a closer look. Cop pilot id's it and of course feels threatened as all cops do. The incident is immediately escalated. I suspect the helo moved in on the Phantom not vice-versa,  it does not say how close they came.

    A warning and some  education would have been sufficien not a felony.

  • T3

    Every pilot's moto (from full scale to small scale): If another pilot does it, it's unsafe. When I do it, "I got this."

    A future headline: "R-44 pilot arraigned for endangering a police drone. The pilot of the police drone had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid the R-44 which flew within 2000 ft of the drone!"

  • Time to sell my stuff before it's worthless... Tired of being asked if I peek in windows anyway...

    When they created the Phantom they made it possible for any Idiot to fly these things.

    Three years ago you had to be smart to build one and you was careful and used common sense....

  • Moderator

    "How is the drone going to strike the tail with all the wash from the mains?" 

    I'd imagine it would hit because the quad, tri, hex, whatever, is light and relatively low powered whereas the tail rotor is a big powerful fan sucking in air.

    Plastic, Aluminium, Carbon etc are all significantly stronger than a bird's body so would present a significantly greater risk to the rotor of the Helicopter - How do i know this? I know this because i can take a pocket knife and cut through a whole raw chicken without any trouble, I can't do that to a 2mm thickness of any of the other materials. 

    Finally a bird has orders of magnitude more intelligence than a quad, and intelligently avoids collisions

  • Interesting legal comments from Gregory McNeal on the prosecution of reckless endangerment of the NYPD in this case. Maybe we can shift the discussion to this, any comments? Without a video we are speculating to the actual encounter. 


  • It's a good point about wash from the main rotors but I fly a lot as a passenger in a helicopter with the door removed and because of what I read and am told, I always make sure I have no loose items that can fall out and hit the tail rotor even though you would think the item would be forced straight down.  But the point is the tail rotor is quite fragile when it is spinning at high speed.

    Also there is the possibility the helicopter could be below the multicopter and the wash would force it into the blades.

  • Lesson #11:  Never attempt to fly *over* helicopters with a drone. I've seen a case between a trex and an ardu hexa where the hexa was diagionally above the trex. The trex operator decided to take off and sucked the hexa straight into the main rotor. The reason why is that helis create an air column in motion which is much like a funnel. Multirotors *will* ride the edges of that downward moving column straight onto one of the blades and the only way to get out of that funnel is to disengage throttle in time. 

    Is there any certification on what kind of object and of what weight a helicopter blade should be able to withstand?

  • @Adrian your comment "that a Phantom poses no risk to a heli" is untrue I did list out the risks and others interpreted those as support. What incorrect facts did I state? 

    @Scott That article lists out the repairs that were made, but no specifics, I never said there was zero risk. Shit does happen. 

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