New York police arrested two men for operating two small drones over the George Washington Bridge that nearly took out a police chopper on Monday.
The Aviation Unit helicopter was on patrol around 12:15 a.m. when it spotted one of unmanned aircraft near the bridge. The drone continued to circle the bridge, forcing the chopper to swerve to avoid it.
Police said the drones, which were operated by remote control, came within 800 feet of the police chopper.
The aviation unit tailed the drones north as they landed at the corner of Audubon and Fort George avenues, near Fort Tryon Part, the NY Post reported.
Officers arrested Wilkins Mendoza, 34, and Remy Castro, 23, both of Manhattan, on reckless endangerment charges.
“It’s just a toy,” Castro said in Manhattan Criminal Court, according to the Post. “The copter came to us,” he added.
Mendoza said the drone was just fun and games.
“We were just playing with it,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
A friend of the pair, Jonathan Reyes, 27, told the Post Castro had purchased a drone about two weeks ago and Mendoza followed suit. They reportedly spent $500 to $700 a piece.
“They’re fun. They’re cool,” Reyes said of his friends. “When they got them, everyone was going crazy and saying ‘That’s some alien stuff!”
The men’s lawyer, Michael Kushner, said the incident was not as serious as authorities allege.
“This vehicle can’t go above 300 feet,” he said. “They did nothing more than fly a kite.”
The Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t set standards for certifying the safety of civilian drones, and efforts to provide them regular access to U.S. skies face significant hurdles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.