FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --A Fresno County Sheriff's Office helicopter narrowly avoided a mid-air collision with a drone. It flew into the chopper's flight path around noon on Wednesday and the pilot had to make a split second decision.
"My first instinct was it was a small plane and I just said, 'oh...here we go,'" said Johnny Reyes who was flying the helicopter above a Clovis neighborhood, 550 feet in the air.
Reyes says the drone was headed straight for the helicopter and he spotted it just in time to dodge to the left. Still, the drone almost hit the rotor. Reyes says it missed by 20 to 50 feet. "If we would have had a mid-air collision with that drone, it could have been catastrophic for us and for the neighborhood."
He followed the drone to the ground, back to the man who was controlling it and landed in a field. The man wasn't arrested or cited-- even though deputies say he was flying at an illegal altitude and his drone wasn't registered. Scott Barnes who is a drone enthusiast said, "Just puts a bad name for all of us you know and that's the tough part, you got all these people breaking the rules."
He flies for fun and keeps his drone below 400 feet to protect his investment and to avoid a collision. "It's a good day when nobody gets hurt," Barnes said as he landed his drone.
Deputies filed a report with the FAA about the close call. Breaking laws in place for drones can result in a fine up to $27,000 or even federal charges.