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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  • This is an interesting incident, and hopefully it will illustrate what is really unacceptable behavior for Phantom Quadcopters and their rapidly proliferating relatives.

    I am very suspicious that the copters were actually there because they had been called to the scene because of the drones.

    And that the reality maybe more that they were the ones approaching the Quad and when it didn't get out of the way reported they had to swerve to avoid it.

    There is rather a considerable difference in performance envelope here.

    This is no justification for the undertaking of this flight in the first place, it serves as an excellent example of what not to do.

    And real helicopters interacting with multicopters is exactly what the FAA is going to use in establishing Draconian prohibitions aimed at eliminating our hobby.

    @Rob, thank you for bringing this article to our attention, we need to know about this kind of stuff because we are all going to suffer because of it.

    The liklihood of damaging a helicopter is not so important as even the remotest possibility and no pilot would actually want to run into one of these things.

    And the FAA most certainly is in full support of that policy.

  • I think drones are invading the sky of copter pilots who have generally been given a pass on the 500 foot rule.  They've had this pass for so long that they routinely fly over my house and others at half that altitude, and traffic copters circle for twenty to forty minutes when there is an accident on a nearby freeway.

    It's so nice to have your wood frame house shake for the better part of an hour and the glass rattle in the windows!  And the military and search and rescue copters are heavier and shake things even more (and don't fly an inch higher).

    The top story in this thread is clearly about two idiots who misused technology they should have left on the shelf or online.  The Phantom does have an altitude limiter, but it's easily disabled.  Circling a bridge had to mean they crossed bridge traffic at some point, which is a bad idea (see: flying brick).  Flying at night also isn't smart, and less so around a suspension bridge!

    It's sad when a few idiots make everyone else look bad, but we have to guard against knee-jerk reactions and over-reaching regulations that would prevent the legitimate use of multi-rotor UAV systems, both for recreation and work use.  Someone with a large rural property can use a "drone" to monitor fences and/or livestock, or just as a security tool.  Farmers use them to assess consistency of crop growth.  (looking at the APM parameters) It is also clear that these vehicles serve as un-manned crop dusting platforms.  The ability to capture video footage for any reason that cannot be captured any other way can be seen as a first amendment freedom.

    Let's make sure the FAA doesn't go hog-wild and screw this up for everybody.

  • Never fly without a working and active data log. Don't just rely on the onboard dataflash, make sure you have mission/APM/Droid planner recording telemetry stream also. Could well come in handy in he said she said situations like this.
  • Same story, some different details


    Two drones nearly took out an NYPD chopper over the George Washington Bridge on Monday, and cops arrested the wayward devices’ operators, law-enforcement sources told The Post.

    The Aviation Unit helicopter was on patrol around 12:15 a.m. when it had to swerve to avoid the small, unmanned aircraft, the sources said.

    The NYPD pilots “observed flying object[s] at 2,000 feet in vicinity of the George Washington Bridge, then circling heading toward the helicopter,’’ a police report said.

    “The officers were forced to change their course to avoid a collision.”

    One source called it a “very dangerous” scenario.

    “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.

    The chopper tailed the drones north as they landed at the corner of Audubon and Fort George avenues, near Fort Tryon Park, at 12:35 a.m., sources said.

    The chopper cops called NYPD Patrol, and officers were dispatched to nab the suspects.

    Remy Castro, 23, who lives on nearby West 193rd Street, and Wilkins Mendoza, 34, of Post Road, were both arrested.

    “It’s just a toy,” Castro said later at Manhattan Criminal Court, where they were arraigned on felony reckless endangerment charges and released without bail. “The copter came to us.”

    Mendoza said the drone experiment was just fun and games.

    “We were just playing with it,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

    Their lawyer, Michael Kushner, said the incident was not as serious as authorities allege.

    “This vehicle can’t go above 300 feet,” Kushner said. “They did nothing more than fly a kite.”

    But a friend of the pair, Jonathan Reyes, 27, said Castro told him they have flown them as high as 5,000 feet.

    “When they first got them, everyone was going crazy and saying, ‘That’s some alien stuff!’ ” Reyes recalled.

    Reyes said Castro bought a drone two weeks ago and that Mendoza followed suit. They spent $500 to $700 apiece.

    They have been having a wild time ever since, flying the drones around the neighborhood each night and posting video of the outings on Instagram.

    “They’re fun. They’re a cool pair,” Reyes said of the men. “Everybody who sees [the drones] goes crazy!”

  • Article is full of inacurate info. First they cal DJI "DGI", second they said that its limited to 300 feet. Its actually limited to 300 meters by the wifi video downlink as I remember wich is about 800 feet. I doubt all this 800 feet were altitude. They probably were on the level of bridge lights. They should have landed immediately when they saw the police heli around.
  • "a defense attorney said the model used can only fly at heights of 300 feet"

    Eh?  Since when do Phantoms come equipped with altitude limiters.  

  • Attorney: "It only flies up to 300 ft."

    Really? Who are you kidding?

  • Don't know the facts, but I would not doubt the police endangered themselves by intentionally flying towards the phantom in this case.

  • I see now that I put wrong altitude in my previous comment, so the correct would be : the pilot reported 800 feet, so about 260 meters. This is close to my estimation that they were flying about 300 meters. The right question would be what the police helicopter is doing at 300 meters above the city? In case of malfunction how much time will be available for the police pilot to recover if he is at 300 meters and what the city inhabitants are thinking about a police helicopter so low at night over their homes?

  • "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? "

    I think the real solution is probably to limit the UAV's to 400 feet with maybe a special allowance for higher altitudes given on a per-job basis.  I think licenses and regulations are valid for higher altitudes just as they are required for large aircraft.

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