Two drone pilots were arrested after cops say their tiny craft nearly collided with a NYPD chopper over the George Washington Bridge.
Remy Castro, 23, and Wilkins Mendoza, 34, of Manhattan, have been arraigned on felony reckless endangerment charges, reports the New York Post. The two were released without bail, but face serious felony charges for their allegedly dangerous drone antics.
Why is flying a drone like this a felony?
Reckless Endangerment Alleged
Castro told a Manhattan Criminal Court that the drone was "just a toy" and that the NYPD helicopter "came to [them]," reports the Post.
But the fun stops when you're accused of placing a police helicopter in harm's way. And since this isn't "Grand Theft Auto," you don't get stars or points for allegedly endangering lives, you get felony charges.
Specifically for Castro and Mendoza, their drone-flying got them slapped with reckless endangerment in the first degree. This is a Class D felony, which can carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison. According to the New York Daily News, this heightened charge was based on allegations that the NYPD copter's pilot felt the drone endangered the police helicopter.
This isn't the first time that poorly planned drone flight has landed a pilot with reckless endangerment charges. Last year, a Brooklyn musician was arrested for reckless endangerment in the second degree after his drone crashed near Grand Central Terminal, nearly hitting someone.
Was It Really That Dangerous?
New York law requires that a person convicted of felony reckless endangerment engage in conduct which creates a "grave risk of death to another person." An unnamed source told the Post that this drone-copter encounter was a "very dangerous" scenario, similar to the bird strike that forced a US Airways plane to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River in 2009.
If prosecutors can prove that flying a drone near a helicopter was so dangerous as to show a depraved indifference to human life, then Castro and Mendoza may be in trouble.
On the other hand, their attorney claims the drones in question can't reach elevations above 300 feet. "They did nothing more than fly a kite," he told the Post. This contradicts police and Castro's friend's reports that the craft could fly to at least 2,000 feet.
Castro and Mendoza have been released on their own recognizance pending their next court date.
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