LA City Attorney files criminal charges against 2 men for flying drones in restricted airspace
The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office filed criminal charges on Wednesday against two men for allegedly flying drones in restricted airspace. These are the first charges under a new city ordinance restricting drones to daylight flight, under 400 feet and not within five miles of an airport.
Michael Ponce, 20, was charged with flying above 400 feet and within five miles of an airport. Arvel Chappell, 35, was charged with the same two crimes and faces an additional charge for flying at night.
Ponce was spotted by helicopter flying his drone over Griffith Park, which is within three miles of multiple hospital heliports. In Chappell's case, a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter coming in to land at Hooper Heliport, the LAPD Air Support Division's base in downtown Los Angeles, spotted his drone in flight and had to alter its flight path to avoid a collision.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of up to $1,000 in fines and six months in prison.
But Los Angeles isn't the only city cracking down on drone safety. An article at the LA Times reported that in West Hollywood, a new ordinance prohibits drones from taking photos, video or audio recordings of people who have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This protects people within their home and hotel rooms and in other areas considered private.
Drone pilots must register their drones with the city, in addition to the already required federal registration. Drones also can no longer fly at night or above parks during city-sponsored events, above City Hall, or above fire and police stations.
This new ordinance comes after a drone took out power lines in October, the LA Times said. The drone knocked an electrical wire to the ground near Larrabee Street and Sunset Boulevard, causing 700 Southern California Edison customers to lose power for three hours.
Another incident involved Dan Berkowitz, a resident in West Hollywood, reading a newspaper on his home's terrace in a bathing suit while a drone buzzed about 15 feet above him. It flew away when he approached to get a closer look.