A California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter was forced to abandon its pursuit of a stolen vehicle after the pilot made an emergency maneuver to avoid a collision with a nearby drone.
The CHP chopper was tracking a stolen vehicle above Highway 4 in Contra Costa County when its pilot noticed a red light hovering perilously nearby, CHP officer James Andrews told the Contra Costa Times.
“He looked outside, saw a red light, and in the time he said to himself, ‘Is that a drone?’ he realized that it was indeed a drone, and it was almost on top of him,” Andrews told the paper.
The pilot was reportedly forced to bank hard right and just narrowly avoided what could have been a catastrophic collision.
“Missed it by less than 100 feet,” Andrews told the Times. “The pilot had to make a very drastic, abrupt turn. It was very, very close.”
After turning to avoid the drone, the helicopter pilot followed the drone until it eventually landed and was retrieved by its operator. Police said no arrests were made, however a police report was reportedly being prepared and sent to both local and federal authorities for possible further action.
The efforts of California law enforcement agencies have been hampered by drone interference before; in June, five air tankers battling the massive Lake Fire in the San Bernardino Mountains were forced to land after one of the pilots spotted a drone flying in the area. The drone operator could not be found and was not prosecuted. In July, firefighters working to battle a brush fire in Mill Creek Canyon were similarly delayed by drone interference.
The increase in such incidents in recent months has led lawmakers to propose legislation intended to curb the risk of drone-related accidents. In August, state Sens. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) and Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) introduced legislation that would allow safety crews to shoot down drones interfering with firefighting or other safety efforts. A related proposal would see drone operators fined $5,000 and given up to six months in jail for flying a drone near the site of a wildfire.
The Consumer Electronics Association predicts that 700,000 drones will be shipped in the United States in 2015, a 63 percent increase over the previous year. The Federal Aviation Administration reportedly announced in October that it would require operators to register their drones prior to flying them.