ABC 7 reported that the AIR7 HD was flying in downtown Los Angeles at around 7:15 p.m. local time when the aircraft was struck by an object. According to the news outlet, both the pilot and Chris Cristi, a reporter, felt and heard something hit the tail of the aircraft. The impact did not impact the ability to fly the aircraft. However, they decided to make a precautionary landing, the news outlet reported.
“We’re flying just east of downtown LA and we heard this pop, a loud bang. We felt it. We heard it. We all looked at each other. Didn’t really know what it was and we just assumed it was a bird because that happens every once in a while. When we got on the ground though, it was a different story,” Cristi said, according to ABC 7.
When the two exited the aircraft, they inspected the helicopter for damage, and while they had initially thought that they had been hit by a bird, the actual damages suggested that it was a drone that had hit them, according to ABC 7. As reported by the news outlet, the helicopter had holes and dents where the collision took place.
Drone DJ reported that the severity of the damages indicated a drone was likely the object that hit the helicopter. However, with no drone parts on the helicopter or the ground, and a lack of blood or feathers, the source of the impact remains unknown, according to Drone DJ.
“My pilot thought he saw a flash and it looks like it might have been the green and red lights from a drone that might have caught the corner of his eye. But he didn’t see it really until we felt it,” Cristi said, according to Drone DJ. “It was a scary couple of minutes not knowing what happened, but it feels great to be back on the ground.”
According to DroneDJ, the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident. Drones are not allowed to fly 400 feet above the ground. A Los Angeles city ordinance prohibits “flying drones within five miles of an airport, above 400 feet elevation, or in a way that interferes with manned aircraft.” It also says drones cannot be operated beyond the unassisted line of sight of the operator.
According to ABC 7, the Los Angeles Police Department, who launched their own investigation, said that although everyone in the helicopter is safe, it could have potentially been a disaster. They strongly suggest that people be responsible and obey the law when operating unmanned aircraft—know & follow the rules.