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CMPD Helicopter Nearly Hits Drone Over Uptown

A CMPD helicopter like this one was involved in Wednesday's near miss with a drone.
A CMPD helicopter like this one was involved in Wednesday's near miss with a drone.

CMPD is trying to find the operator of a drone that nearly collided with one of its helicopters near BB&T Ballpark Wednesday night.

The near miss happened just before 9 p.m. as more than 8,000 people watched the Charlotte Knights play Durham. A CMPD helicopter was returning to the airport at over 100 miles per hour when a drone appeared. It was dangerously close to the helicopter - just 20 feet away, says Sgt. Kenneth Anderson.  

“It would've been a catastrophic incident had it struck the windshield of the helicopter,” he said.

The drone was flying at 600 feet - at least 200 feet higher than federal rules allow, according to Anderson. It forced the pilot to swerve.

“It was very fortunate, and with the skill of our pilots, being able to see it - although it was last second - and leave the airspace to gain some separation from it,” Anderson said.

Drone operators are supposed to get Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly over uptown - and to fly at night. Anderson says investigators found that the FAA did approve one permit, but that person was not responsible for this incident.

Anderson says police are investigating several leads, but haven't made an arrest.

CMPD says encounters like this one are becoming more frequent as the number of drones increases.

The latest incident was the most serious since March 2016, when a CMPD helicopter had to swerve to avoid a drone while searching for a suspect.

Police later charged a Concord man who was found using a police scanner to follow the chase.  

More than 20,000 drones in North Carolina are registered with the FAA. Officials urge drone users download the FAA’s B4UFLY app, which warns about flight restrictions where they are flying.