While the Federal Aviation Administration has until next year to come up with rules that govern the use of drones in the National Airspace System there’s no denying the fact that drones have already taken to the skies. Available for a couple of hundred dollars, with models offering better altitude and range costing thousands, its fairly easy for anyone to get their hands on a drone.
This means that inevitably there would be a situation where someone lands in trouble even when they think they aren’t doing anything wrong. That’s exactly what happened to Wilkins Mendoza and Remy Castro who were arrested for flying a DJI Phantom 2 drone too close to a New York Police helicopter.
According to the NYPD the drone was flying at 2,000 feet and was only 800 feet from the helicopter. Under the current rules that govern model airplanes, these apply to drones as well, pilots must never lose sight and must fly them at altitudes of less than 400 feet. But both Mendoza and Castro say their drone wasn’t flying that high.
They say that their drone was hardly at 300 feet when it began to be chased by the NYPD chopper. Castro’s brother Jonathan tells The New York Daily News that they were trying to get the drone away from the helicopter but “it keeps on following the drone.” He also claims to have video proof of the helicopter following the drone and not the other way around.
Even though the DJI Phantom 2 can reach heights of 2,000 feet it is usually flown at lower altitudes, and since its battery powered, it wouldn’t have been able to fly for more than 20 minutes anyway.
Both Mendoza and Castro have been charged with felony reckless endangerment but it looks like they won’t go down without a fight.