Man facing charges in incident involving drone and Columbus police chopper

(WBNS/Columbus Division of Police)

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A Columbus man is facing landmark charges after detectives say he flew his drone much too close to a CPD helicopter, putting those on board and those on the ground in danger. At one point, detectives say he was essentially playing "chicken" with the chopper.

"Oh, this wasn’t an accident, no, this was not accidental," said Det. Patrick Seaman of CPD's Counter-Terrorism Unit. "He was definitely doing that. I don’t think he had any nefarious intent, but it was certainly dangerous."

Ryan Cook, 32, is charged with two misdemeanors -- prohibited acts and unsafe operation of an aircraft. Det. Seaman says these are the first charges related to improper drone activity to ever be filed in Franklin County.

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On July 9, Cook is accused of flying his drone within about 200 feet of a Columbus police helicopter that was out on routine patrol. And detectives say that was not the only law he broke. They say the drone should not have been operating at night or above a busy roadway. And, it should not have been flying at 800 feet, double the height allowed.

"Oh, it could have been catastrophic," Det. Seaman said. "That drone could have struck the helicopter, caused it to lose control and crash, especially at night, with hundreds of pounds of jet fuel on board, plus two pilots. Then, if it would have crashed into a house or car or something on the ground, it’s just ridiculous. It’s not worth it."

Det. Seaman says Cook was operating the drone via his mobile phone. But, once he saw the spotlight shining down on him, detectives say he quickly brought down the drone in the schoolyard of Forest Park Elementary and then ran.

But he was not hard to find. Detectives say the data from the drone they confiscated led them right to Cook. Plus, there was a witness.

"He was very remorseful," Det. Seaman said. "He realized this was not the best idea in the world, and so, admitted it."

Cook is set to appear in court next month. He faces up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine on each charge. The FAA also confirms an ongoing investigation. Det. Seaman says that could lead to even more fines.

10TV did try to reach Cook for comment but did not hear back from him.

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