LAWRENCE (CBS) — Massachusetts State Police are searching for the operator of a drone they say nearly struck one of their Air Wing helicopters Wednesday morning.
The near-collision happened around 11:20 a.m., when State Police helicopter Air 2 was flying over the Lawrence Municipal Airport while travelling from Holliston to Newburyport on a training flight.
“If we didn’t see it and make an evasive action, it would’ve been probably one to two seconds before we impacted that drone,” said Trooper Russell Phippen.
The black and white drone, about two to three feet long, was flying 200 feet too high, and in restricted air space near Lawrence Municipal Airport.
State Police said the helicopter was flying at about 600 feet when the drone came toward it from the helicopter’s left.
“The drone got as close as approximately 100 feet in front of the helicopter before suddenly dropping to the ground,” State Police said. “Considering the flight speed of the helicopter, a collision could have resulted in the drone breaching the flight cabin if it struck the aircraft’s windshield.”
Troopers explained their windshield, more like a screen, offers very little protection. “That is a very thin piece of plastic that can break just by dropping something from two to three feet away,” Trooper Phippen said.
The crew turned around and tried to find the drone’s operator, but neither they nor Troopers on the ground could find anyone.
“It is against the law for private drone pilots to fly their UASs within five miles of an airport, or to fly at an altitude greater than 400 feet,” State Police said. “Private drones heavier than .55 lbs. must be registered with the FAA.”
State Police said the crew landed safely at the Lawrence base, and that they are investigating.