NYPD Air Traffic Control Recording Tells a Different Side of Near-Crash Drone Story


Yesterday, the story of two DJI Phantom quadcopters endangering an NYPD helicopter made the rounds online. Initial reports claimed that the two ‘drones’ were flying right at the helicopter forcing the NYPD pilot to take evasive action before following the Phantoms back to their source and taking the RC pilots into custody.

The air traffic control recording and several statements from the pilots themselves, however, seem to run contrary to what the NYPD is claiming, making it look like the helicopter was never in danger and, in fact, chased down the pilots with no idea what to even charge them with.

The recording, which was published by and is embedded below, confirms that pilots Remy Castro and Wilkins Mendosa were perhaps flying their quadcopters too high, in a less-than-desirable location and making sudden movements; however, there is no indication of an imminent crash and it seems the helicopter took chase, not the other way around.

As the chopper follows the RC helicopters back to their source and notifies police on the ground, the conversation turns to what exactly they’ll be charging the pilots with.

We have the guys who were operating them,” you can hear the NYPD say in the recording. “We really don’t know exactly what we have, maybe a reckless. Not sure what exactly we got.” That “we don’t know what we have” sentiment is then repeated a couple of more times before the pertinent part of the recording ends (around 27:20) with the statement:

Seems to me, if they were at 1,000 feet they’d have to be operating that thing recklessly, regardless of whether or not it was a toy.


The recording seems to track better with the arrested pilots’ version of the story, which they told to the New York Daily News. “We have video proof that we are not following him, he’s following us,” one of the pilots’ brothers is quoted as saying. “He’s endangering our lives and himself by following us.”

Whatever the accurate story is, it’s cases like this that are pushing the FAA to expedite the drafting of regulations on the flying machines. With privacy and safety concerns reaching a fever pitch, it won’t be long until the government passes down definitive rules on when, where and how the UAVs can and can’t be used… for better or worse.

(via Vice)

  • Steve

    No offense, but if you’re going to say “reports claim…(something sensational)”, you may want to screencap something other than the NYP. I don’t doubt sensationalistic reporting by other media outlets, but NYP isn’t anything close to a credible source of news.

    None the less, the Phantom operators should have exercised MUCH more caution.

  • ryfter

    I agree. After reading the story yesterday, I was thinking the guys operating the drones needed the book thrown at them. Now, I think the police were “fishing” to charge them with “something”. At that point, I think the officers need to be suspended, and trained in procedures. They do not have the right to “make up” offences, if they just want to. (and out of ignorance).

  • Bryan DiCerb

    While things are in such limbo in regards to regulations on this new readily attainable form of photography now, operators need to calm down and be respectful. Otherwise regulations are going to be thrown at everyone… ugh…

  • samar22

    As a pilot who is familiar with that airspace, it should be noted that the area over the Hudson is a general aviation corridor within the New York/New Jersey Terminal Control Area. If they were at 1,000 feet, they were either within the TSA or inside the GA corridor. Either way – and regardless of whether they were following the copter or it was following them – they shouldn’t have been there.

  • Pete Woods

    Maximum altitude allowed for RC Aircraft here in Canada (which is pretty
    much the same as in other countries) is 400 feet. And flying at any
    altitude near an airport is also not allowed without permission of the
    airports air traffic controller. If indeed the RC pilot was flying at
    1000 feet that is in clear violation of the law. So yes I would imagine
    they could charge them based on the evidence provide by the police and
    any other witnesses. Yes, the question of privacy is currently a gray area
    however as for the rules or the laws that govern the operation of RC
    aircraft are quite clear.

  • Will Mederski

    i read yesterday’s sensational story knowing that the story would change today.

    and just days after PP has to apologize for the Fox Hole Fakes?

    come on PP. no one is coming here for breaking news.
    we’re here for quality coverage of our industry.

  • 423546578697089

    what about ufo´s??

  • Beaugrand_RTMC

    UFOs are covered by a treaty Nixon signed with the Greys back in ’71. They get free access to perform experiments on target individuals and livestock, we get access to GMO technology.

  • Mike

    Samar, there hasn’t been a “Terminal Control Area” there for years. The encounter was over the GWB, which is Class E airspace within the Hudson River SFRA from SFC-1300′. It is then Class B airspace from 1300′-7000′.

    They launched, however, from Inwood, which is Class B from Surface-7000′.

    As you say, they should not have been there.

  • Eden Wong


  • jkantor267

    The Police never tell the truth until a recording comes out.

  • Brent Busch

    Cops lying? I’m shocked! /sarc

  • Akos Simon

    Both Parties must get arrested until this gets 100% clarified who followed who, and who as a consequence endangered who exactly.
    But we are in the USA, the Land of Cowboy Laws ,…. the Hero and Stronger one always is in the right ….. LMAO!
    Thanks to Technology there will be likely enough electronic documentations to find out what happened.
    We can all bet on it, if it turns out that the Helicopter Pilots followed the Drone, the Pilots will not even get charged with anything but a Tap on their shoulder .
    Right now this new rumor is only being reported on back Channels like this one here, the NEW YORK TIMES has not written up about this new discovery yet.
    which is very very odd at best….

  • disqus_KaGdwj0Fv8

    Thats going to happen anyway. If you dont like it leave the country, That’s what me and many of my friends interested In this field are doing after we finish school.

  • Peter “Pots”

    The operators of the drones must have fantastic eyesight to be able to fly them at 1,000 feet…I get antsy flying mine at just a hundred feet or so. Those drones must have super-duper battery power.