A 23-year-old foreign exchange student who nearly collided his drone with a CHP helicopter wants to apologize.
On the night of December 6th, a young man who was flying his drone near his Martinez home nearly caused it to collide with a California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter.
Now, the 23-year-old foreign exchange student tells KTVU he’s studying to be a pilot himself and that he’s sorry for his drone’s near miss with the CHP helicopter.
“I feel really upset and really bad,” said Owen Ouyang.
He showed KTVU his drone. He says he hasn’t flown it since the night of the near collision over Highway 4 in Martinez and that he didn’t know what had happened until police showed up at his home.
“I feel very surprised,” said Ouyang. He said the drone was in its return to home mode when the near miss happened.
The CHP pilot was actively searching for a car theft suspect at the time.
The foreign-exchange student from China said he was flying the drone outside his host family’s home in Martinez.
Just two minutes after takeoff, Ouyang said he lost control of the drone and soon lost sight of it as well.
“I believe there was some signal interference between the power lines and the drone,” said Ouyang.
He said he lost control when his iPad screen, from which he was controlling the drone, went black.
“He headed south. At some point over the freeway, his drone lost connection. And just like a cell phone that loses connection, the drone lost connection,” said Joseph Tully, Ouyang’s attorney, as he showed what he says was the path of the drone on a map.
Ouyang acknowledged that he did set the default altitude at 750 feet when the recommended height is about 400.
“I do not want the drone to lose connection, hit a building and fall on somebody’s head,” explained Ouyang.
The young man says he’s speaking out about what happened because he didn’t want to hide and that he owed an apology to the CHP pilot.
“I’m a student pilot. I would like to have his forgiveness,” said Ouyang.
The FAA is investigating this incident.
Law enforcement said it doesn’t appear Ouyang will face criminal charges because there is no malicious intent, but FAA regulation states that anyone operating a drone unsafely can face up to a $27,500 fine per violation.