back to article Hollywood drone pilot admits he crashed gizmo into cop chopper, triggering emergency landing

A man in California faces up to a year behind bars and a fine for crashing his drone into a police helicopter, forcing an emergency landing. Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, this week pleaded guilty to recklessly operating an unmanned aircraft, a US federal crime that could have seen him imprisoned for ten years if the accident had …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It seems unusually lenient for endangering an aircraft. Good of the cops to get a warrant to access the camera although the cynic in me wonders if it was done after the event and necessary to present the evidence in court.

    1. FILE_ID.DIZ

      Well, reading the criminal complaint, taking it at face value indicates that the FBI got a search warrant for the SD card on 1OCT, which is ~two weeks after the incident. Coincidentally, the FBI had this dude's name and address the night of the collision from a witness who said that a nearby person frequently flies "drones".

      On 18OCT, FBI received a search warrant. And on 18NOV, asked for and received an arrest warrant based on the interview from 18OCT and other evidence collected from the warrant.

      According to the plea agreement, the Feds aren't charging him with two additional violations for failure to register the UAV. Probably why they had to apply for a warrant for the SD card. FBI wasn't able to quickly ascertain the registered owner of the UAV.

      If crims fess up to their crimes quickly these days - in light of the pandemic, by waiving certain rights - trial by jury, video conference court sessions, apparently that'll earn you some goodwill reductions in the sentencing guidelines.

      All in all, looks like a pretty well-managed case, quickly executed to its conclusion with a defendant who knew he did wrong and quickly owned it.

      As an aside - I mostly read through all those filing because I was kinda hoping to find out the altitude of the cop chopper. The only additional charges the Government isn't charging the defendant with are registration violations. If he had flown that UAV above 400ft, I'd imagine that'd be another charge listed in the plea agreement, or be charged with that too. So that must mean either there wasn't enough evidence available to also charge him with that (not likely), or the cop chopper was below 400ft.

      I have no clue what the rules are for cop choppers while actively investigating a crime. As opposed to just flying around in-between calls for assistance.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        with a defendant who knew he did wrong and quickly owned it.

        Well once they'd caught him. Not like hanging around your car after a prang is it?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Regardless of the altitude of the cop chopper, an unmanned aircraft must always give way to a manned one. Whenever there's a collision, the fault lies at the unmanned one. Simple as that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          How do you suggest it does that? I'm curious as to what drones you have seen that either have the ability to look upwards or sound. As this hit the bottom of the helicopter I think we can safely assume it was an unfortunate accident though he should have always been in line of sight of the drone regardless.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            How it does that is for the manufacturers and operators of the unmanned aircraft to decide. The law is clear on this point. Knowing the details of air law (and things like this) is why training should be a legal requirement for anyone operating a drone larger than a kids toy.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            DJI Mavic 2 has upwards infrared detection, and there's at least one other drone that does. Either way, if he was below 400ft as another commentors suggests, and he was just taking off as per the article, you'd think he'd notice a ruddy great helicopter above him. Idiot.

          3. goldcd

            I was just wondering how a drone would react to a full sized helicopter appearing over it.

            Suspect it's not a scenario that was anticipated in their design.

            Was wondering if a massive helicopter sized down-draft would knock the lighter/smaller drone down, and it would automatically respond to by switching to 'full power' (maybe causing it maybe to rocket up above intended height-ceiling into the pocket of slightly lower pressure directly under the body of the helicopter).

            But reading the other comments, I shall read those from others who seem to know what they're talking about.

          4. Blank Reg Silver badge

            I believe that in most jurisdictions you are not supposed to fly a drone where you can't see it. If he could see his drone then surely he would have been able to see a giant helicopter.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Which is what I said.

            2. Cynic_999

              "

              If he could see his drone then surely he would have been able to see a giant helicopter.

              "

              Undoubtedly the helicopter would have been visible, but what we humans actually perceive visually is astoundingly only about 10% due to the image entering our eyeballs, and 90% a "cleaned up" and "decluttered" image that is concocted entirely by our brain. The brain is a very powerful continuous real-time (almost) image post-processor, and we never get to see the original raw image. We can both fail to see what is visible, and also clearly see details that do not actually exist. It is entirely possible that the drone pilot was so fixated on the drone and what was taking place on the ground that the presence of the huge noisy helicopter did not register in his brain at all.

              One interesting fact is that it takes a whopping 200mS for the signal produced by our retina to travel the few cm along our optic nerve & register in our brain. Our brain compensates by making a prediction of what we will see 200mS in the future, and it is that image that we "see". This enables us to do things like catch a fast ball. Thus what we think we are seeing in real-time is in fact a completely imaginary, predicted image rather than the real-time events. It also means that 200mS is the absolute minimum time needed to react to any unexpected visual event. If what really happens does not match the prediction, then when our brain get the real picture 200mS later, it retrospectively alters what we remember we saw, and we conveniently forget the erroneous image we really did "see".

              The data rate of the signals in each optic nerve is about 100 Mbps.

            3. hoola Silver badge

              And heard it, if the helicopter was that close it would have been obvious.

      3. Cynic_999

        "

        I have no clue what the rules are for cop choppers while actively investigating a crime. As opposed to just flying around in-between calls for assistance.

        "

        Not sure about USA, but in UK AFAIAA there is no difference in height limits between civilian and police aircraft. Twin engine helicopters have lower minimums than single-engine, and there are exceptions if actively engaged in rescue operations & similar. There are (sensibly) no height restrictions for aircraft engaged in landing or take-off, so it would be fine if the helicopter was engaged in ferrying people to or from the scene.

        It may well be the case that the police helicopter pilot was more at fault than the drone pilot, though there is an over-riding rule that states that all pilots have a duty to avoid a collision no matter who has right of way.

  2. Efer Brick

    What a CLINT

  3. Magani
    Black Helicopters

    Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

    "About midnight..." WHAT? What a Richard Cranium. This act will give the FAA (and other country's associated agencies) more grist to stop legitimate drone flyers even further.

    However, one wonders about the altitude at which the drone and police chopper came together, and if either or both had recognition lights on. From memory, the US regs are no higher than 400' AGL for drones?

    POLAIR choppers here are renowned for flying at night with zero lights on.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

      The helicopter wasn't in any real danger and as would expected the collision resulted in the destruction of the DJI and minor damage to the helicopter. Both the FAA and law enforcement have a vested interest in hyping up the incident. Law enforcement's all about 'control' of every situation it finds itself in. The FAA's motivation may be bit different.

      We're currently in a bit of a tricky situation in the US with UAVs because the new FAA rules for UAVs are overly intrusive and to a large extent technically infeasible. These rules were needed because the proliferation of cheap consumer drones, drones than anyone could fly, meant they were turning up in all sorts of places they shouldn't, presenting a danger to the public and airspace users. Since the FAA can't figure out how to regulate them they've ended up lumping everything that flies into this category, interfering with a hobby that's not only been coexisting with aircraft operations for a half-century or more but also has contributed significantly to the development of aviation. (Their rules could also be construed to applying to things we're used to thinking of as toys such as kites.) The FAA is demanding a technical solution that provides the same identification and real time flight information as ADS-B (without using ADS-B -- they're not that stupid) using some yet to be determined technology that maybe used "Bluetooth" or "WiFi" but definitely not based on the Internet. The result is a bit of a crisis in credibility which results on them coming down hard on any identified miscreant, the traditional response of a bureaucracy that needs people to 'respect its authority'.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

        Wrong. They were extremely fortunate that the drone didn't hit and or destroy any of the main or tail rotor blades. Damage to any of these and a crash is more likely than not. They're not robust enough to survive impacts with other airborne objects.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

          Wrong. They were extremely fortunate that the drone didn't hit and or destroy any of the main or tail rotor blades. Damage to any of these and a crash is more likely than not. They're not robust enough to survive impacts with other airborne objects.

          A helicopter blade has to be very strong, tough and rigid.

          A small two blade helicopter weighing 2 tons obviously has to be able to support at least one ton per blade without the blade bending too much.

          That isn't the end of the story though, for example there is a strong centripetal force along the blade due to its rotation. This document shows that a Bell OH-58 helicopter rotor blade experiences a 14 ton longitudinal force at the blade root and 10 tons halfway along the blade.

          And then there are the forces across the blade because of air resistance and the inertia of the blade. A typical rotor speed is 300 knots. The leading blade also has the forward speed of the helicopter added to this, perhaps another 100 knots. So the tip is flying into a 460 mile an hour gale. That produces a pressure in the blade tip region of about half a ton per square foot.

          Whilst it is true that helicopter blades can be seriously damaged if they hit brick buildings, the ground or 6 cm thick high voltage cables, they also have absolutely no problem whatsoever slicing someone's head off (29 people were killed that way between 1982 and 2006) and bird strikes, like this one, are common because helicopters are much more likely to operate at low altitude than fixed wing aircraft.

          Paris, because it is not just helicopter blades that have to be strong, tough and rigid to work properly.

          1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

            Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

            But just like F1 suspension structs , they are very storng and very rigid in the direction the forces are ment to go. in other directions... not so much.

            for example, take the blade edge.... its not designed to go through anything but air, put a drone in the way and.... who knows.... once you've got a crack forming in the blade from slicing the drone in 1/2, its very easy to see that crack spreading across the blade due to the action of the blade during flight... and oh look 4 mins after impact the end 15 feet of the blade goes off for a wander by itself.... at which point gravity takes a very great interest in the chopper (gravity gets scared away from choppers by the noise.. thats how they fly.. any less noise and gravity comes back)

          2. DJO Silver badge

            Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

            On C4 Scrapheap Challenge one challenge was to build a hydrofoil, one team found some helicopter rotors and tried to bend them, and tried, and tried again - got there eventually but it wasn't easy.

            https://www.channel4.com/programmes/scrapheap-challenge/on-demand/32530-011

          3. Cynic_999

            Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

            I have a PPL(H) so have flown helicopters. The blades are reasonably strong, but a quadcopter could certainly damage a blade quite badly. A bird strike can bring down a helicopter. The blade would probably not break, but the damage would quite likely cause an aerodynamic imbalace that would literally vibrate the helicopter to pieces. A pilot I knew had a supermarket plastic carrier bag fly up and catch on a main rotor blade, and had it not happened close to the ground (he was coming in to land) so he could set it down immediately, the very severe vibrations would probably have caused a structural failure within minutes. You could hear the vibration from the opposite side of the airfield - probably a mile away!

        2. ridley

          Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

          I am not sure Bout the police helicopters but the Huey pilot who write "ChickenHawk" used to make a clearing in the jungle bigger* to allow him to take off.

          *When near max very take off weight or over you had to take off on the move to get out of your own rotors dirty air. So if you landed to do a pick up in a small clearing you wouldn't be able to take off from it when loaded, unless you made the clearing bigger with those big old rotors....

          1. Steve K Silver badge

            Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

            That was a Huey though, and the main rotors were made from railway sleepers!

          2. Jay 2

            Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

            I did think of this (or one of the other books I've read written by Vietnam Huey pilots) whilst reading the comments. I seem to recall whilst under heavy load they sometimes took a few liberties and did end up going through some trees without too many problems, although the rotor blades did sustain some damage.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

        ADS-B where the B is Blockchain? That's got to be the soloution.

      3. not.known@this.address

        Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

        Aeromodellers have been building and flying model aircraft for years - even the Wright Brothers started off that way. Not so long ago you needed to have a radio operator's licence to use remotely-controlled models and there were strict rules about where you could or could not use them - and people obeyed them. And since most models were hand-built and relatively expensive (in time as much as money), people tended to be careful with them. And that is the difference.

        Now any idiot can buy a ready-to-fly drone and control it with an app, and many of them show the same sort of intelligence and planning as when they walk down the street with their nose stuck to their screen - and step out into traffic or walk into someone else or (much funnier) something like a street lamp because they are not paying attention.

        And something many people forget, it's not just the physical mass of the drone that is the problem - there's a large amount of kinetic energy in a rotor blade and when it hits a drone moving much slower... to borrow a quote from a well-known car commercial, "you do the math".

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

          "there's a large amount of kinetic energy in a rotor blade and when it hits a drone moving much slower."

          Exactly. Even if the blade survives unharmed, you're suddenly going to have a lot of high velocity shrapnel (drone bits) flying who knows where.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

          This is why we're not allowed nice things....

    2. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

      Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

      If been wondering about that, myself. Max permitted altitude is, as you say, 400'. In addition, minimum for aircraft is supposed to be 500'. So one also wonders what the chopper pilot was doing.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

        minimum for aircraft is supposed to be 500'

        Wouldn't that make landing a bit tricky?

        1. Cynic_999

          Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

          The regulation specifically states "... except when engaged in landing or take-off"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

        The minimum altitude requirement of 500' does not apply to aircraft involved in "aerial work" which includes police helicopters, as well as helicopters carrying loads, crop spraying aircraft, firefighting aircraft, air ambulances, etc.

    3. suburbazine

      Re: Not really the brightest bulb, was he?

      Since nobody has answered this exactly- yes, drone altitude limit (assuming no RPIC license and associated waiver) is 400' AGL, daylight hours between civil twilight and yield airspace to all manned traffic at any altitude.

      This bloke was at ~1490' AGL, at night, and climbing at FULL THROTTLE. Apparently this was not his first high-altitude night flight either, just that this one wound up embedding bits of his extremely strong carbon fiber rotor blades in the helicopter fuselage under the chin antennas.

      There is not a significant amount of downdraft under a helicopter blade when under way, only when in a stationary hover (and then not much, ground effect makes it look much more turbulent) and it's very easy for a drone to penetrate what little local aerodynamic effect the helicopter has surrounding it at altitude.

  4. Aitor 1 Silver badge

    Damage to main rotor

    I pretty much doubt that the drone could have damaged the main rotor enough for it to go down.. they are reinforced. The tail one.. difficult to hit but way weaker.

    Anyway the idiot is either that, a idiot or crashed on purpose. As he had an sdcard on it, I assume he is just incredibly stupid.

    Idiots like him have ruined a hobby for the rest of us.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Damage to main rotor

      Rotors have a significant down draft and to make contact it would have to approach the drone from below or the drone be ahead.

    2. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Damage to main rotor

      For the tail rotor, it could jam in the pitch control mechanism (or Fenestron) or cause damage that unbalanced a blade/fan and let vibration do the rest.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Damage to main rotor

      Don't forget the possibility of being swallowed by the engine air intake.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Damage to main rotor

        Pieces after the drone has been shattered might get ingested, but the intake is in the rotor downdraft so the drone won't go into it.

        1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Damage to main rotor

          If the helicopter is moving forward at speed, there is virtually no downdraft, so the risk can exist.

          On aircraft structural integrity; I worked on a lot of different military aircraft in years gone by from helicopters to fast jets and they are designed to withstand enormous stresses and forces but only in a specific manner.

          Take any number of fast jet aircraft (and indeed commercial aircraft); you will often see the words 'NO STEP' painted large on some wing areas. The reason is that although these areas can withstand enormous aerodynamic forces in flight, the weight of a single person (much less force than going at mach 2) that happens to be doing downward pressure on the surface is enough to damage it.

          Rotor blades, likewise, are designed to withstand aerodynamic forces but don't do so well when the forces are from an unintended direction, so blade damage, while unlikely, is a definite possibility.

    4. Muppet Boss

      Re: Damage to main rotor

      >I pretty much doubt that the drone could have damaged the main rotor enough for it to go down.. they are reinforced. The tail one.. difficult to hit but way weaker.

      Well, the British Army and the British pilots association report that helicopters can be critically damaged by any drone, specifically by damaging the tail rotor. The pilots must follow emergency procedures after any sort of mid-air collision, they did not really have a choice to do emergency landing or not.

      The guy did not hand himself in to police and was tracked down, imho was very lucky to get such short sentence.

      https://www.eurocockpit.be/sites/default/files/2017-09/Mid-air%20collision%20study%20RPAS%2C%202017.pdf

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Damage to main rotor

        QED

        https://www.pprune.org/rotorheads/638256-uas-through-windscreen-jetranger-pax-injured.html

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Damage to main rotor

      "I pretty much doubt that the drone could have damaged the main rotor enough for it to go down.. they are reinforced."

      I wouldn't be so sure about that - lithium batteries are heavy and dense and it if a blade struck it it could cause enough damage to unbalance the rotor and cause serious control issues and possibly disintegration of the assembly before the pilot had a chance to land.

  5. Stratman

    I always find it strange that a sentence doesn't reflect the actual crime but seems to depend largely on the outcome.

    Fly a drone into a chopper, superficial damage - a year inside

    Fly a drone into a chopper, injury or death - 200 years inside.

    Notice the crime is the same in both cases, and it's not as if the perp had any control over the outcome.

    1. fireflies

      Because it would be illogical to base the sentencing on the worst possible outcome... the chopper could have crashed into a hospital for orphans during puppies and kittens day, setting the building on fire...

      Someone could throw a punch and hit someone - that's assault or battery, but depending on the injury, it could also be ABH, GBH, or even manslaughter. The same force applied to that punch could result in a range of outcomes.

      Law will always take into account any mitigating or escalating circumstances, and the outcome of a criminal action will often set a distinction in its classification (attempted murder vs murder for another example) and in the sentencing received accordingly.

      1. macjules

        This is the USA we are talking about. Logical sentencing packed its bags and emigrated a long time ago.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Not just the US

          The same rules exist elsewhere. In the UK if you're caught driving when drunk you'll get a minimum 1 year driving ban and a hefty fine. If you kill someone when driving drunk you'll face jail time. More severe consequences for the crime make a big difference to the perceived severity of the crime itself.

          1. CuChulainn Silver badge

            Re: Not just the US

            Upvoted.

            But on the subject of drones, you're not supposed to fly them at night in the UK (bit more to it, but recreational drones are not part of that), you have to have visual contact at all times (not including the camera view on the handheld monitor), and...

            "Never interfere with emergency response activities such as disaster relief, any type of accident response, law enforcement activities, firefighting, or hurricane recovery efforts."

            I haven't looked up the US regulations in detail, but I can't imagine they are THAT much different.

            1. CuChulainn Silver badge

              Re: Not just the US

              Incidentally, having looked up the US rules out of interest.

              "You must fly within visual line-of-sight."

              At night, that is greatly reduced. Depth of field is the biggest issue, so even if you can see the red LEDs on your drone, you won't know with any certainty how close it is to the big searchlight on the police helicopter it is in the vicinity of.

              "You must never fly near other aircraft."

              He struck out on that one.

              "You must never fly near emergency response efforts."

              Strike Two. He obviously WAS near it, because he hit it (or it hit him).

              I noticed that even on UK drone forums, you have the people who say you shouldn't fly at night because of the visual reference condition - yet they're immediately swamped by people with very suspicious avatars involving skulls and forbidden substances who start talking about fitting strong lights to get round it.

              There is no specific rule which says you cannot fly at night, but it is implied by the visual line of sight one, and the ability to see other hazards in order to fly safely. I mean, it doesn't really matter if you can see the bright red LEDs on the back of your drone if you fly it into the power line that you CAN'T see in the pitch dark.

              My DJI won't let me fly at night, because the software programs itself for the locale it is being used in. But you CAN override it (as you can with the 120m/400ft altitude limit) - and that's the cue for the funky avatar-types.

              1. heyrick Silver badge

                Re: Not just the US

                "because of the visual reference condition"

                As a part time low end hobbyist pilot (as in the type that uses WiFi and literally can't go much further than 40m in any direction; and only flies for about eight minutes at a time), it's actually pretty hard to keep the thing pointing in the right direction when you can see it. I've not flown at night with the drone more than a couple of metres away. I wouldn't want to try. Sure, moonlight shots are nice, but far too many trees around...

                I can imagine things would be better with a good FPV setup to see what the drone sees, but on the flip side, if you're looking at what the drone sees you're not looking at the drone itself, making it easy to miss certain things like the bloody big helicopter just abo...oh crap...

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Commswonk

            Re: Not just the US

            In the UK if you're caught driving when drunk you'll get a minimum 1 year driving ban and a hefty fine. If you kill someone when driving drunk you'll face jail time.

            True, but perhaps misleading. Killing someone when driving OPL is not an "aggravating factor" to driving OPL but is a separate offence.

      2. Muppet Boss

        In some countries the order of crimes also matters, e.g. mutilating and killing someone carries a much more severe punishment (usually lifetime) than killing and then mutilating, because in the latter case there was less suffering.

        In aviation, if the victims were confirmed to die a painful death (like drowning) in a plane crash, the compensation is usually much higher than if the death was instant.

        Apologies for bringing in such sensitive topic, this is just to give a whole picture.

      3. ridley

        I disagree. It is illogical to give a lesser sentence if no one was injured, the crime is the same whether the accident resulted in injury or not, you should be sentenced for putting others in danger.

        I am reminded of the bloke who fell asleep at the wheel of his land rover & went off the motorway. Bad luck meant that he went off just next to a railway cutting which he went down coming to rest on the tracks and he couldn't get off them. So he called the railway and as he was talking to them a goods train hit his car and detailed, by pure bad luck coming in the opposite direction at that. Moment was an express which collided with the goods train and one person was killed iirc.

        Now if he had come off the road and ended up in a field it would be a few points possibly a ban. As it was he was sentenced to something like 20 years.

        That just ain't right.

        1. NightFox

          You're right that sentencing based on the outcome rather than the act is illogical, but the intended purpose of a court's sentence is threefold: Deterrent (stop others doing it), Punishment (stop the person doing it again) and Retribution (let the public/victims feel they've 'got their own back' and justice has been done). With this third factor, human nature is usually at odds with, and prevails over, logic.

        2. Daniel Hill

          Great Heck crash (near Selby).

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selby_rail_crash

          10 dead, 82 seriously injured and the car driver only got 5 years. Many in the rail industry considered that far too lenient, especially as he had decided to drive in a sleep deprived state.

          Anything involving injury or death caused by cars does seem to get a far more lenient sentence than many would consider acceptable!

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            That's because causing death by dangerous driving has a maximum sentence, and lacking intent limits handing out more than around 80% of the maximum sentence, and pleading guilty gets you x% discount, and a plea in mitigation gets you another x% discount, and...

            All of this reflects more upon the politicians who wrote the sentencing guidelines for the judges rather than the severity of the offence, even as laid down in legislation.

        3. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

          If the sentence for the case when people did not die is considerably less, there is a law breaker that a person finding himself in such circumstances with a choice of what to do next will choose a path when nobody dies.

          Like phoning the police advising them that he is stuck on the railway in the hope that the trains are stopped as opposed of trying to run away without telling anyone while pretending that the car was stolen.

        4. fireflies

          Should someone be charged with murder/manslaughter if they point a gun at someone and pull the trigger?

          Just because the gun was unloaded at the time, and no one died, or was even injured.

          Where is the logic in that?

          Logic dictates that justice should match the punishment to the crime - if someone is killed, that is a greater crime (resulting in death) than if someone is injured (resulting in injury) or if there was no death or injury.

          To measure justice otherwise would be illogical. Consider the school playground, one child pushes another child over - could result in no injury, or through pure chance, the falling child could hit their head on a sharp or protruding object and result in serious injury or death.

          People make mistakes all the time. Sometimes those mistakes unfortunately end up with tragic outcomes. If the mistake was criminal, the outcome must affect the consequences.

          Arson is another example (one can look at the Philpott case for a prime example of this) - set fire to a house, that is the crime of arson - if people die in that fire, it becomes murder/attempted murder/manslaughter.

          It is logical to consider each of the factors involved, not to simply latch onto the worst possible case, otherwise most if not every crime would result in the most extreme charges and sentencing.

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      >> it's not as if the perp had any control over the outcome.

      Of course he had. He could have chosen not to fly unsighted into an area where it might reasonably be expected that emergency service aircraft might be present.

    3. Cynic_999

      Lots of crimes are like that. Wander onto the wrong side of the road while texting and swerve back without incident - a fine and points at most. Do exactly the same but hit & kill a child on a cycle and you'll get a prison sentence.

  6. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Helicopter danger

    I've stated this before here, and for many years before that. I don't feel we should be using helicopters above residential areas as they are too liable to crash. As transport to oil rigs, fine, only risking their own lives. But for rich people avoiding road traffic, never.

    Police in Scotland misuse their helicopters just because they have them, for no good reason. Sometimes they fly above residences to search for the heat signature of cannabis farms - knock on the doors instead. The fatal Clutha helicopter crash in Glasgow was launched to search on suspicion of someone trespassing on railway lines. A 'crime' that would either have ended harmlessly, as it did, or one fatality at most.

    I have no problem with unarmed police drones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Helicopter danger

      One fatality? If the train driver had seen the trespasser and initiated an emergency stop it could have potentially injured or killed passengers during the sudden deceleration.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Helicopter danger

        >If the train driver had seen the trespasser and initiated an emergency stop it could have potentially injured or killed passengers during the sudden deceleration.

        Trains don't stop that quickly.

        In the US train tracks often run beside roads and there's rarely any fencing between the two. You don't wander around on active train tracks for the same reason as you don't wander about on roads -- you'll get hit by traffic.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Helicopter danger

          Here in the UK railway trespass is a significant safety worry. Not necessarily for the safety of the intruders, but if they're stealing cables that can lead to signalling problems and who knows what. Train collisions brought about by signal and point failures are extremely dangerous.

          The systems are designed to cope with a certain degree of cable failure, but no one can guarantee safety if someone rips out a whole bunch.

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Helicopter danger

            Fair point, some railway trespass is more threatening than just to the trespasser. In reality the railways are well enough designed that when cable is cut the railway just stops, no real danger.

            I still contend a helicopter is not a proportionate or suitable response.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Helicopter danger

              Given the massive amount of disruption that occurs when the signalling cable is damaged (or when someone makes the mistake of getting run over by a train...) a helicopter seems pretty reasonable. It can make the difference between thousands of people getting to work OR getting home in the evening.

              But then, I'm married to someone who used to commute by rail daily until Covid happened.

          2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Re: Helicopter danger

            I have to ask--why not use radio signaling on the engines? 100% accuracy. Through in anti-jamming technology.

            ???

        2. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: Helicopter danger

          "You don't wander around on active train tracks for the same reason as you don't wander about on roads -- you'll get hit by traffic."

          I think what you meant is you shouldn't wander around on active train tracks. There are a lot of things people shouldn't do, for a wide variety of reasons, that still seem to happen awfully frequently.

      2. Daniel Hill

        Re: Helicopter danger

        I've been on trains which have initiated emergency stops (in one case, after hitting a trespasser at about 70mph!). Although it's certainly sharp, the deceleration is unlikely to throw passengers around in a manner which which could cause serious injury or death, except in a really unlucky scenario (e.g. an elderly person walking back from the toilet and falling).

        It's nothing like an emergency stop in a bus or car.

        Trams, on the other hand, can often stop much more abruptly!

    2. Commswonk

      Re: Helicopter danger

      I don't feel we should be using helicopters above residential areas as they are too liable to crash.

      And how many times has that happened in the last 10 years?

      Sometimes they fly above residences to search for the heat signature of cannabis farms - knock on the doors instead.

      Knock on the door and do what, exactly? Sorry, but I don't think you have much idea about how policing works, and for that matter has to work.

      Ad IIRC the Clutha crash was pilot error; I'm not trying to downgrade its importance but merely trying to put it into context.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Helicopter danger

        And how many times has that happened in the last 10 years?

        Too often. For instance a few months earlier in London.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_incidents_involving_helicopters

        Knock on the door and do what, exactly?

        Arrest any criminals without risking civilian lives.

        I'm not trying to downgrade its importance but merely trying to put it into context.

        The context is it was searching for someone reported to be on a railway line. Something that could and should have been carried out by officers on foot.

        1. Alister

          Re: Helicopter danger

          Something that could and should have been carried out by officers on foot.

          You really don't have a clue, do you. By far the safest and most effective method of searching for someone at night is to use an infra-red camera from above. Officers on the ground have no way of replicating that sort of search.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Helicopter danger

            Well, they could use drones.

          2. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Helicopter danger

            an infra-red camera from above. Officers on the ground have no way of replicating that sort of search

            Drone.

            1. Alister

              Re: Helicopter danger

              The type of infra-red camera system used in a police helicopter is too large to be carried by a drone. Nothing a drone could carry would have the sensitivity needed.

              Also, as ably demonstrated by this case, flying a drone at night is difficult.

              1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                Re: Helicopter danger

                The sensitivity needed for what? For identifying a human heat signature? The sensitivity required to spot a dope farm? Either way you are wrong, the police are already deploying such drones. There is a story in the Daily Mail today about a crashed cop drone, which admittedly proves your point that they are difficult to fly. Helicopters are even more difficult to fly, but when a drone crashes then nobody dies.

                1. DJO Silver badge

                  Re: Helicopter danger

                  A story in the Daily Mail proves absolutely nothing.

                  1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                    Re: Helicopter danger

                    Just because the Daily Mail claims Boris Johnson is Prime Minister doesn't mean he isn't.

                    Feel free to google the spec of the Aeryon SkyRanger R80 if you doubt it can target a heat signature.

                    https://www.sussex.police.uk/police-forces/sussex-police/areas/au/about-us/governance-and-processes/drones-unmanned-aerial-vehicles/

                    (I'm not bothered by the downvotes, just the lack of arguments and rationale here. Most disappointing for this forum.)

                    1. DJO Silver badge

                      Re: Helicopter danger

                      I'd admit that sometimes (probably by mistake) the Daily Mail does print an accurate story but winnowing the wheat from the chaff is just not worth the bother.

                      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                        Re: Helicopter danger

                        I normally apologise in advance for linking there. I do skim it everyday because it's not paywalled and too many people read it to ignore it, same as the NYT and Guardian. But worse obviously.

                        A stopped clock is correct twice a day, unless it's a 24 hour clock.

                        1. heyrick Silver badge

                          Re: Helicopter danger

                          "and too many people read it to ignore it"

                          Too many people pay attention to Fox News, but anybody with a modicum of self-respect would avoid it.

                          I get Daily Mail stories in my News app feed. Just reading the headlines and seeing their take on things. Just a little earlier, some shoutiness about a direct link between vaccines and people dying. (which I read as meaning: let's stir up some anti-vaccination sentiment). Yes, some (usually rare) react badly to medications and it might prove fatal. That being said, the virus itself has killed how many so far?

                          Your best bet is to ditch the DM, read a paper that at least attempts some measure of integrity, and the fact that a lot of people read the DM just means a lot of people are either very gullible or derive some perverse pleasure from being trolled.

                          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                            Re: Helicopter danger

                            Hey Heyrick,

                            I'm not promoting the DM but there were relevant facts in that article, such as police are already using drones with heat cameras.

                            I grew up in the cold war listening to Radio Moscow and Radio Free Europe and the BBC World Service on a short-band radio under my bed covers when I should have been asleep. I think I can cope with the Daily Mail and the Guardian propaganda, and the scores of other online publications I scroll through.

                            I'd recommend you don't ignore the DM or other publications you know to be flawed, especially the popular ones. It's dangerous to be unaware of the various bubbles.

                2. Matthew Brasier

                  Re: Helicopter danger

                  The sensitivity required to identify the heat signature as that of a person, identify that person as distinct from other persons and track them for a period of time, while maintaining an evidential quality recording suitable for use in later proceedings. We aren't talking about hobby equipment that mostly does the job. We are talking about equipment that can provide evidence for use in a court.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Helicopter danger

                    You are falling in to the creationists 'evolution of the Eye' logical trap. Because helicopters have evolved fancy heavy IR eyes that can see and track etc etc, there's no way that a drone can replicate tha and so drones can't do anything. But a drone doesn't have to replicate all of it's capabilities. If it can locate a person and that person is where they shouldn't be, then they don't need to identify them as 'distinct'. Evidential quality recording - nice, but imagery that results in an apprehension has done it's job. And as a taxpayer, I quite like the idea of supplementing the £1700 an hour flying cost and the £2,000,000 capital cost of a police helicopter with drones that can be deployed locally when appropriate.

                  2. CuChulainn Silver badge

                    Re: Helicopter danger

                    To be fair, police in the UK ARE using drones with IR cameras to locate people.

                    This shows the footage from one such case recently (not The Daily Mail). The technology looks similar in image quality to that used in helicopters.

                    Then there was one fitted with a thermal camera which found a cannabis factory.

                3. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Helicopter danger

                  "when a drone crashes then nobody dies."

                  It's all fun and games util someone loses an eye....

        2. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Helicopter danger

          You need a search warrant to enter a house like that if the occupants don't answer the door especially. If you're running a hash growing house you are very careful about people coming to the door.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Helicopter danger

            ...and in many cases, the house is unoccupied other than infrequently when the "gardener" is in to check on the crop. They often use empty shops or houses.

        3. Commswonk

          Re: Helicopter danger

          @ Danny 2: Arrest any criminals without risking civilian lives.

          As Alister said You really don't have a clue, do you. I think you would do well to do a little research on police powers of entry before passing comments such as that above. The circumstances that allow police to enter property without a warrant are very limited and laid down in law. "Just checking to see if you are running a cannabis farm" is most definitely not one of them. FWIW no warrant would ever be issued on that basis alone by either a Police Inspector or a Magistrate; there would have to be good grounds for suspecting that that property (house) was being used for that purpose; what the USians would call "probable cause".

          An excessive heat signature (as spotted from a helicopter) would be very likely to be sufficient to trigger a warrant.

          See also Muscleguy's comment; hash houses can be booby trapped (commonly by connecting things such as door handles to the electrical mains) and any occupants armed. It would not be unusual for any planned raid to involve armed officers in sufficient numbers to overcome any reluctance on the part of any occupants to behave themselves.

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Helicopter danger

            Ignoring your puerile insults and lack of argument, you challenged me on how often helicopters crash in residential areas and failed to respond when I listed some - regardless, once is one too many.

            Risking civilian lives for trivial police fishing exercises is immoral. I can see the need for police helicopters in residential areas during a pursuit of active killers, but not otherwise. Anything else they can do in a helicopter they can do with a drone with zero risk and at a fraction of the cost.

            hash houses can be booby trapped (commonly by connecting things such as door handles to the electrical mains) and any occupants armed

            A big fan of Breaking Bad and The Wire, are you? You are living in a fantasy world. A large scale farm run by a criminal gang could well be dangerous, I wouldn't know, but criminal gangs do not set up in small flats. The people who do are the resident who grows for themself and a bit of pocket money. They don't risk a hefty prison sentence for resisting arrest, let alone your deluded murder attempts. How do I know? Because I've met scores of these folk, some in the community and some in the cells.

            Go on, name some examples of dope growers in flats who commit violence. Or grow up and get a life outside of TV.

            1. Matthew Brasier

              Re: Helicopter danger

              Going back to the point about helicopters crashing in residential areas. Cars, motorbikes, etc all crash in residential areas more often and cause a lot more injuries and fatalities. I assume you are in favour of banning these much more dangerous vehicles (for which very little training is required to operate them compared to a helicopter) first?

              1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                Re: Helicopter danger

                Matthew,

                For passengers travelled then I doubt your figures - or at least would like to see some figures. I'd advocated banning car drivers under the age of 30 and over the age of 60, and that any driver should have the equivalent training of a helicopter pilot.

                My problem with helicopters isn't the lack of pilot training, it's the inherent risk of the machine over residential areas compared to societal gain.

            2. heyrick Silver badge

              Re: Helicopter danger

              "Risking civilian lives for trivial police fishing exercises is immoral."

              If we're going to go down that street... MPs risking civilian lives because they think they know more than actual scientists is immoral.

              Remind me, what's the death toll from helicopters falling out of the sky in the past 12 months, versus Covid?

              [in other words, helicopters cost a shittonne to maintain and deploy, so I doubt they'd do it without having some semblance of reason]

          2. keith_w

            Re: Helicopter danger

            You could probably check electrical usage, since gro-ops usually use a lot of power for the grow lights. If you suspect a certain house is being used I am sure a magistrate will be happy to issue a warrant for that information, which could then be further utilized to request or not request a search warrant.

            Also, wrt drone crashes not killing anyone. I am sure that a Global Hawk drone crashing would kill anyone in it's path. I do also realize that most of the drones being referenced here are consumer sized but no one has actually said that.

            1. Commswonk
              FAIL

              Re: Helicopter danger

              You could probably check electrical usage, since gro-ops usually use a lot of power for the grow lights.

              Which is why bypassing the electricity meter is high up on a would - be grower's to - do list. Cannabis farms and dangerous electrical systems go hand in hand.

              Outside the occasional bit of HUMINT the best way of finding a cannabis farm is from its heat signature as seen from on high.

              1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

                Re: Helicopter danger

                And the imbalance between the sum of electrical usage reported by the meters and that by the substation is constant (wire loss) until someone fiddles with their meter, immediately alerting (alert) authorities that there is some checking to do.

                I do NOT approve of the state sending helicopters 200' over my house at night just so see if one of my neighbors is doing something stupid. Yet, I hear one every couple of weeks.

        4. JimC

          Re: Helicopter danger

          Railways are dangerous places. A bunch of coppers blundering round on foot is *exactly* the wrong thing to happen.

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Helicopter danger

            Maybe train police not to walk on railway tracks? Maybe deploy a drone? Deploying a helicopter to search for a potential trespasser is literally overkill.

            Hey, we've got a helicopter burning up our budget during austerity, what can we possibly use it for to justify the expense?

            1. NoOnions

              Re: Helicopter danger

              You really haven't thought this through, have you? If the train hits the trespasser it will require a massive response from the emergency services. It will shut down the railway for hours. The driver will be severely traumatised, possibly for life. People will have to be on the tracks picking up body parts. Passengers will have to be rescued. Engineers will have to repair the train (and often find body parts lodged under the train).

              Also, the trespasser, if not hit, could be along miles of track. A single helicopter, with powerful IR kit, can search a far bigger area than a drone or officers on the ground.

              I'd suggest that one helicopter and two or three BTP offices in a car or two is far cheaper.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Helicopter danger

                It's not just the train drivers left traumatised by the aftermath of a collision with a trespasser. My great uncle survived his ship being sunk in WWII, but said that carnage was nothing compared to what he experienced as an ambulance crewman picking up the bits after someone had gone under a train.

            2. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

              Re: Helicopter danger

              Well, before going onto the tracks, you need a Personal Track Safety certificate (or whatever the current equivalent is called - mine expired many, many years ago).

              So that's a couple of days training, I guess (mine was). So every officer that's going onto the active railway line needs to give up two days' duty time to get their PTS, and they have to do that every 3 (?) years, to renew it.

              It's not trivial.

              (Incidentally, I suspect that a lot if not all British Transport Police are PTS trained, but there are only so many BTP officers available at any location, and they still have to cover their routine duties).

              And how many police officers are you going to need to track down a trespasser? It's night, he or she doesn't want to be found, and can see your torch light, so will probably be trying to hide. If it's a single track line, closely fenced, that's fairly easy to search, but a lot of the UK's railway infrastructure shows its history, with extensive sidings, abandoned and partially overgrown track beds, lineside structures, etc.

              Then there is the issue that a dozen police officers waving torches around will be distracting to the drivers of any trains that come through the area - they might be distracted and miss a signal, or mistake a flashing torch as a signal to stop.

              In most parts of the UK, the railway, where it is electrified, is by overhead cable, so operating a drone, at night, becomes problematic (Don't operate the drone while standing somewhere unsafe, but you still have to be able to control the drone; don't crash it into the overhead line, or a signal post, or a train or let a train (moving at...? Could be 100mph+ depending on permissible line speed) hit your drone. (Though reports of trespassers on the line can shut down all services)

              Or, stick a helicopter in the air, well clear of obstacles on the ground, using thermal imagery.

              No hazard to the railway.

              No impact on railway services.

              Requires a pilot and officer in the helicopter and a couple of officers in a car on the ground. The whole area can be searched quickly (minutes not hours) so railway disruption is minimised (the trespasser is tracked down, or sufficient evidence that he or she is no longer on the tracks is obtained to call off the search and re-open the line).

              Quicker, safer, (allowing for the time of the police officers and delays to the railway) probably cheaper, and with a better record of the search (record the camera image).

              Appropriate use of technology.

            3. fireflies

              Re: Helicopter danger

              Early on in this discussion, you referenced the incident with the helicopter crash in Glasgow - that happened in 2013. How was drone tech coming along in 2013?

              A police force would have needed a license for each drone operator, and drone trials within the police didn't properly start until 2014 (Gatwick airport, funded by the ACPO to test the effectiveness of the technology in policing)... or do you expect our local police forces to go down the path of experimenting with new technologies on a whim?

              Fast forward to the current day - police forces do use drone technology more prevalently - it takes time to adapt to new technologies and ensure they are used effectively, responsibly and appropriately. That said, police helicopters have their uses and are not about to be phased out or rendered obsolete. Drone use has expanded the possibilities of aerial policing because they are cheaper and able to operate in ways that helicopters cannot, however there are still ways that helicopters can operate that drones cannot. Drones are more appropriate for a local vicinity (remaining within visual sight), while helicopters can cover more distance, and fly more quickly.

              You referenced a wikipedia article about helicopter crashes - bearing in mind that list goes back over 50 years, includes global incidents, civilian use (private charter, amateur pilot), and military uses including armed conflict. Helicopters are much safer than road based travel - a police drone operator would be arriving at the scene by car, so there is a far greater risk of injury or death relating to a drone operation if you account for the travel to and from the scene by car, than there would be if the same scene was attended by helicopter.

              The benefits of drone use over helicopter are operating costs and deployability, not safety.

              1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                Re: Helicopter danger

                fireflies,

                You mention the rapid development of drones since 2013, and that is true. And their range can be greater than a helicopter now, depending on model. And they are cheaper.

                You mention helicopters are faster that drones, I don't know if that is true but it only has to be faster than someone on foot - or a stationary flat! You said drones have to remain in visual sight - that's not true even if it once was. I mean, maybe it's still true for civilian drones.

                1. fireflies

                  Re: Helicopter danger

                  "only has to be faster than someone on foot" - yes but it still has to reach / find that person first. That could either mean searching from the air, or getting a new sighting and having to travel quickly. I also take that to mean that you recognise drones wouldn't be any good in a car chase?

                  Helicopters average a top speed of 160mph, drones are for the most part restricted to under 43mph speed limit. The fastest drone ever (according to Guinness world records) is 163.5mph, but that is a special racing drone weighing under 2 pounds (the fastest helicopter is 299mph for comparison)

                  When I said drones have to remain in visual sight, I mean that by law, not by operational functionality. People can possibly drive with their eyes closed, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. To support this statement, I will quote from the West Midlands Police site:

                  "The drones must follow all Civil Aviation Authority regulations and fly within 500m of the pilot. The drones cannot fly outside of the pilot’s line of sight unless a second pilot is used"

                  Adding to this, the drone's flight time between charges is 20-45 minutes, police helicopters can stay up for approximately 2 hours. So when it comes to range, a helicopter has the drone beat on speed, time in the air, not to mention you can have a large camera, spotlight, and multiple eyes in a helicopter to search and fly.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Helicopter danger

      When drones can stay up for hours on end and fly potentially hundreds of miles on a single sortie, carry infra red and visible light cameras plus an observer to have a look around for what the camera can't see then just possibly they might supplant choppers. Given how much helicopters cost not only to buy in the first place but to run , if drones could do their job any sensible police force would be using them instead of choppers already but as it is they just get used by plod it would seem to bother hikers going for a walk miles from anyone else during lockdown.

      "Sometimes they fly above residences to search for the heat signature of cannabis farms - knock on the doors instead"

      Yeah right mate, that'll work. Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth....

      "Excuse me sir, are you running a cannabis farm here?"

      "Nah bro, dats my wicked aftershave yo can smell init"

      "Right you are, have a nice day"

    4. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Helicopter danger

      Sometimes they fly above residences to search for the heat signature of cannabis farms - knock on the doors instead.

      I'm not really sure you get how that works. Cannabis farms put out an absolute mass of heat, most of which escapes through the roof. Those houses being heated to about 40C rather than ~20C stand out like a glowing beacon from a helicopter. (eg https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2120626/House-hiding-cannabis-factory-captured-helicopter-police-thermal-imaging-camera.html)

      Now, given that the obvious heat signature comes out of the roof then walking around with an IR camera probably wouldn't do you much good at ground level since you can rarely get a good view of the roof at ground level. A helicopter enroute to do something else in London that has an FLIR camera running and recording can with zero expense (that wouldn't have otherwise been incurred) flag up houses that are either totally uninsulated or drug factories to pop in front of a judge to ask "pretty please could we have a search warrant because this looks dodgy"

      Now in comparison, you suggest walking around and knocking on every door in the country. This is obviously nuts. Even sending somebody around with an IR sensor would take frigging ages and probably not have anything to show for it, and knocking on the door? Idiotic.

      The police don't have the power to just knock on your door and demand to come in unless they have reasonable suspicion that an indictable offence is occurring on the premises. They might ask "can we come in?" but that's more to do with it being a courtesy to let them in because it's frigging freezing outside than being related to a lawful demand. If you have a house full of drugs that are going to be looked after by illegal immigrants then it is unlikely(!) that they are going to let the police in unless they kick the door down and they can't do that without a warrant.

      It's ok to not like "the war on drugs", but complain at the politicians who come up with the rules, not the people who enforce the rules.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Helicopter danger

        Cannabis farms put out an absolute mass of heat,

        A few years ago, yes. Now there are cheap full spectrum LED grow lights that produce little heat and consume a commensurately small amount of energy.

        Unless someone has hundreds of them it would be impossible to detect unless some of the light (with a rather characteristic UV rich spectrum) leaks. Such real-time spectral analysis would be tricky with the limited capabilities of a drone.

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: Helicopter danger

          DJO, thank you! Years ago growers would use sodium lights stolen from car parks, high energy and hot. Not now for the most part. And flying above flats looking for a thermal signature only identifies those in top floor flats. Drones can carry any sensor a helicopter can.

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Helicopter danger

          I suppose it depends on how many things your growing, and how quickly you want them to grow.

          A quick look on ebay suggests that grow lights come ready made using 1-5 kilowatts:-

          https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1000W-5000W-LED-UV-Grow-Lights-Full-Spectrum-Hydroponic-Indoor-Flower-Plant-Lamp/274435047402

          So I suspect that any bigger plantations in a house probably do still kick out an incredible amount of heat.

      2. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Helicopter danger

        Peter2, I haven't smoked dope since I lived in the Netherlands. I do find 'the war on drugs' pathetic but my beef is with the overuse of police helicopters in residential areas for non-threatening reports.

        Um, most of your comment is just so obviously wrong or out-dated that I'll only deconstruct it if you demand it after you read the other comments here.

      3. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Re: Helicopter danger

        @Peter2 have you ever been near a cannabis farm? You don't need any form of thermal imaging to spot them. Mainly because they stink.

        The fact is that the police just aren't really interested in dealing with them unless they are absolutely huge, like on the scale of a warehouse.

        A friend was walking down a street near his home when he encountered the unmistakable guff. He immediately spotted the house from which the guff was emerging. And a quick proximity check with his nose confirmed it. The house was a middle terrace with all the curtains not just closed but clearly taped up front and back. A neighbour spotted him sniffing about and stuck her head out to tell him the house was empty, but somebody came by occasionally because she could here them moving about, but that she never saw them and they never opened the curtains. Absolutely classic signs of a cannabis farm. So he called the police to report the farm. The police response sums up the police attitude. Firstly they told him that they had no previous reports of a cannabis farm at that address. Well I should hope so, after all you'd think they'd have shut it down if they had. Then they told him that his suspicions weren't actually evidence that a crime was being committed so thanks very much for the report and they would pass it to the drugs squad for consideration. About a month later he passed that way again and nothing had changed.

  7. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    $1000 Restitution?

    Never mind the punishment part. I'm surprised that one can get away for as little as a kilobuck to repair anything aviation related.

    1. Jos V

      Re: $1000 Restitution?

      I'd say... I recently had to order a couple of simple push buttons for the FCU of a commercial airliner. Those are $850/ea, and probably the cheapest thing I ever procured.

      Did it only scratch the paint?

      1. Nospam

        Re: $1000 Restitution?

        Even polishing out a scratch might cost more than that at 'full' insurance rates, so the $1k could just be the cost of the forced landing and inspection. As expected by everyone other than the hysterical scaremongers, the most likely outcome of a 700g drone colliding with an aircraft is aircraft 1 drone 0.

        I would like to see the scientific evidence that the FBI expert presented to show that commercial helicopter rotor blades are so fragile that they could be critically damaged by an impact with such a low mass object.

        There are helicopter deaths every year caused by mechanical failure or pilot error. None (ever) caused by drones. Maybe one day there will be, but it will be by a 10kg+ commercial or police drone, not a 700g Mavic.

        1. FILE_ID.DIZ
          Thumb Up

          Re: $1000 Restitution?

          Don't forget about the rear window of the 2020 Toyota Corolla was broken by the drone falling out of the sky. That's probably half a kilobuck.

        2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: $1000 Restitution?

          It was a toy this time. A quick check of B&H shows drones having a takeoff weight of 34kg, which can include a 15kg camera rig or extra batteries. The only requirement to getting started is a credit card and enough brains/luck to buy a compatible controller.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: $1000 Restitution?

            Well if you are prepared to break the law, the only thing between you and a full sized helicopter is your credit card and enough brains/luck to read the start sequence.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: $1000 Restitution?

              Hmmm - helicopters aren't that simple to fly. Its not like you press a "go up button" and it takes off. But assuming you did manage to self-learn enough to fly it, as soon as an unexpected aircraft the size of a helicopter appears on an air traffic controllers scope a whole series of events would kick off that would almost certainly culminate with a knock on the door from the police. Even in unregulated airspace you are required to identify yourself to the regional air traffic service so they can dispatch SAR if you disappear.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: $1000 Restitution?

                I wasn't suggesting they were easy to fly. Just commenting that anyone with a credit card, a big credit limit and no brain could buy one and try to fly it (indeed there are some 'amusing if it's not yours' videos of people essentially trying to do just that). And actually in unregulated airspace you aren't required to identify yourself to anyone ( hint - the word is unregulated).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: $1000 Restitution?

      I would imagine that just damage assessment alone would cost that much money :)

  8. YetAnotherJoeBlow Bronze badge

    Yet again

    The plod better be careful - yet another tech problem solved without any cyrpto backdoor in the drone. Warrants are not that painful to get.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There will be a Hollywood movie about it soon - then we'll get the detail of the incident in true Hollywood fashion.

    Dwight Schultz as the helicopter pilot.

    Gillian Anderson as the FBI agent. Maybe Jodie Foster.

    Not sure about the drone pilot - that would depend on the story line. A plot for a new Mission Impossible movie....?

  10. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    "A pharmacy had been burgled, and the officers who showed up had requested some eyes in the skies."

    Excuse me, does that mean that the drone guy was a volunteer filming on behalf of the police? Or does it only refer to the police helicopter that he banged into?

    Yes he pled guilty. Everyone in the United States has to plead guilty because of the consequences if you don't. It doesn't mean that you did it.

  11. Tempest
    WTF?

    Who's Airspace Ís It Anyway?

    In the US 'domestic' drones can fly up to 400 feet - in what they call G Class airspace. It ís essentially unregulated by ATC.

    The LAPD are notorious for flying low over city areas, as can be seen by their antics captured on First Amendment videos usually when the 'Flying Pigs' play spotlight games with photographer's extremely bright flashlights/torches. LAPD has a fleet of 19 helicopters which include two Bell 206B3 JetRangers, 10 Eurocopter AS-350B2, 4 Airbus H125, one Bell 412 plus one Beechcraft King Air 200 twin-engined aircraft.

    The question is who was flying legally below 400 feet? Of course they blame the drone operator - he's lucky he wasn't charged with attempted murder knowing LAPD - notorious for the Rodney King beating incident.

    The lessons learned from this incident are: Always use a new SD Card (without any data on it) and remove all identifying serial numbers from cameras

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who's Airspace Ís It Anyway?

      See above comment about the aerial work exception to minimum height requirements. A police helicopter does not have a minimum altitude requirement (and nor do civilian helicopters carrying loads, e.g. lifting a load onto the top of a tall building). It is neither correct, safe or legal to assume that you can safely operate a drone below 400' without having to worry about other aircraft.

      1. Tempest
        FAIL

        Re: Who's Airspace Ís It Anyway?

        Each country's rules are different. US private drones can fly to 400 feet in G space

        ÚS Rules: Sec. 91.119 — Minimum safe altitudes: General.

        Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

        (a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

        (b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

        (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

        (d) Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—

        (1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and

        (2) A powered parachute or weight-shift-control aircraft may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section.

        The LAPD Flying Pig brigade are notorious for flying just about residential rooftops - I have witnessed them and their antics are also recorded on First Amendment videos and some can be witnessed on YouTube.

      2. Tempest
        Meh

        Re: Who's Airspace Ís It Anyway?

        Cops DO have to comply with height regulations in the USA - check out videos of automobile chases or TV coverage of traffic.

  12. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    You see, this is why we don't have any caped superheros in this universe. They can't get the indemnity insurance against knocking out other airspace users.

  13. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Back in the days before quad copters when r/c aircraft (as drones were called then in the UK at least) took some skill to fly a lot of bozos might have wanted to fly one, but frankly couldn't be arsed with acquiring the skills.

    Of course now quadcopters are incredibly easy to fly. Especially high end ones which are pretty much fly by wire. And they are so easily available and of course cheap.

    Already there's a lot more regulation in most countries than only a few years ago. But these regulations seem to be largely ignored by pilots and go unenforced by the authorities. Take the UK laws on flying near crowds, built up areas or roads, how often do you see those being adhered to? How often do you see then being enforced? However I suspect that it will only take one fatal accident for that to change to the extent that the sale and use of drones will be all but outlawed in that particular jurisdiction. Whether it's at a city or country level will largely depend on the size of the event. If a drone kills an individual on the ground then they will probably be outlawed in that local jurisdiction, but should one take down an aircraft resulting in multiple deaths then you can expect a ban at national level.

    If you think they won't be effectively banned following such an event you need to consider three things. Firstly policing the things effectively in most countries where they are legal is just not happening and it would be much easier and cheaper to issue a ban on all but licenced commercial use than it would be to improve policing of their use. Secondly the majority of people seem to dislike drones, so whipping up an outcry to ban them won't be difficult. And finally politicians love a kneejerk headline grabbing blanket solution rather than a reasoned response, they can tell the population they have taken decisive action.

  14. HammerOn1024

    He probably won’t have to pay anywhere near that amount, though.

    What'a make a bet? That might cover the repair bill and recertification of said repairs to the helo.

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