Police helicopter and drone in near-miss collision, thieves get away
Mon 7 Dec 2015
A California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter tracking a stolen vehicle narrowly avoided a mid-flight collision with a drone on Saturday in Contra Costa County.
While no arrests were made following the incident, CHP officers have confirmed that a police report will be sent to federal and local authorities for review. A step which could lead to the prosecution of the drone operator at a later date.
The controller, who police have now identified, landed the drone and collected it from Roux Court, Martinez, according to CHP’s James Andrews. He was tracked to a house less than half a mile away.
Andrews explained that the H-32 helicopter missed the drone by less than “100 feet” – “The pilot had to make a very drastic, abrupt turn. It was very, very close.”
The helicopter crew came against the drone above Highway 4, between the Alhambra and Morello exits, where it was following a stolen vehicle travelling east at around 9pm. The pilot noticed a red light about the size of a golf ball outside the aircraft flying at the same altitude, 700 to 800 feet, said Andrews.
“He looked outside, saw a red light, and in the time he said to himself, ‘Is that a drone?’ he realised that it was indeed a drone, and it was almost on top of him,” he added.
The pilot was forced to suddenly veer right to avoid the imminent crash. The drone came within an estimated 30 feet, gliding under one of the rotors. The helicopter team then pursued the UAV with its spotlight until it landed. The crew lost track of the stolen vehicle, which was never captured.
Officer Andrews warned that drones, no matter what size, are a danger to manned aircraft. “From the pilot’s standpoint, we have enough to worry about without running into something that’s not supposed to be there,” he said. “So it’s extremely important for people to know how dangerous it can be.”