FBI searches for pilot of drone that buzzed near CBP helicopter

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 3:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking to identify who is responsible for illegally flying a drone near a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter on Feb. 9.

At 10:30 p.m., CBP employees informed the Tucson Police Department that a drone was flying too close to their helicopter. Multiple law enforcement agencies worked to locate the drone’s operator but were unsuccessful. Officials say the drone appeared to launch from an area about five miles south of Tucson and flew across Tucson and north over Marana. No one was injured and no other similar incidents have been reported involving this specific drone, officials say.

In 2018, The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act included 18 USC 39B, which federally criminalizes “Unsafe Operation of Unmanned Aircraft,” meaning knowing or reckless interference or disruption of a manned aircraft, and the operation of unmanned aircraft in close proximity to airports is considered illegal. While the drone did not come into direct contact with an airplane or cause a pilot to make an evasive maneuver, officials say the actions are against the law and extremely dangerous.

Anyone flying a drone illegally can face federal criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment.

Officials say it is possible the drone operator(s) were not aware they were violating the law, however, anyone with information to assist in this investigation is asked to contact the FBI at 623-466-1999. Tips can also be reported to tips.fbi.gov.

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