TWO MANHATTAN men were arrested early Monday after they piloted a drone close to the George Washington Bridge and nearly struck an NYPD helicopter, police sources said.
Wilkins Mendoza, 34, and Remy Castro, 23, were remotely piloting a DJI Phantom 2 drone as it flew near the Hudson River crossing, at about 800 feet in the air, around midnight, the sources said. An NYPD helicopter crew spotted the drone and observed the unmanned aircraft as it circled the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge over the Harlem River about 12:20 a.m., the sources said.
At one point, the NYPD helicopter pilot had to veer off course to avoid being struck by the drone, the sources said.
The helicopter crew followed the drone and watched it touch down at Fairview Ave. and Fort George Hill in Inwood.
Mendoza and Castro, both of Inwood, were arrested at the landing zone at 12:34 a.m., and police also recovered a second drone, the sources said.
Both men were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on a single felony count of Class D reckless endangerment, a charge stemming from the fact the pilot said he felt the drone endangered the NYPD helicopter.
But a prosecutor requested the men be released without bail, and a judge agreed.
A prosecutor told the judge that police reported the drone as having flown 2,000 feet in the air, but a defense attorney said the model used can only fly at heights of 300 feet.
(That attorney might want to spend little time looking at YouTube ed)