In a recent case that highlights the growing concern over the inappropriate use of drones, a Laguna Beach man has pleaded guilty to the unsafe operation of a drone near several aircraft, including a Coast Guard helicopter in mid-flight. Alexander Milinovic, 62, admitted to three misdemeanor counts of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft, which occurred between June 2022 and March 2023. These incidents involved flying the drone dangerously close to a gyrocopter, a “Shark Week” blimp, and a Coast Guard helicopter, prompting emergency maneuvers by the pilots to avoid a collision. Milinovic now faces the possibility of up to one year in federal prison for each count. The case was investigated by the FBI and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration and the United States Coast Guard. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for November 28, 2023.
Laguna Beach Man Pleads Guilty to Unsafe Operation of Drone Near Aircraft
On July 13, 2023, Alexander Milinovic, a resident of Laguna Beach, California, pleaded guilty to federal charges of unsafely operating a drone near aircraft, including a Coast Guard helicopter. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the incidents, legal charges, investigation, and potential consequences associated with Milinovic’s actions.
Laguna Beach man Alexander Milinovic pleads guilty to federal charges of unsafely operating a drone near aircraft, including a Coast Guard helicopter.
Alexander Milinovic, a 62-year-old resident of Laguna Beach, California, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft. His actions involved flying a drone near various types of aircraft, including an open-cockpit gyrocopter, a Discovery Channel blimp, and a Coast Guard helicopter. Milinovic’s guilty plea highlights the importance of safe drone operation near aircraft to ensure the safety of pilots, passengers, and bystanders.
Brief overview of the use of drones and their regulations
Drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), have gained significant popularity in recent years. They are used for various purposes, including aerial photography, recreational activities, and commercial operations. However, the operation of drones is subject to regulations and guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure safety and mitigate potential risks.
Importance of safe drone operation near aircraft
Operating drones near aircraft requires strict adherence to safety guidelines. The proximity of drones to aircraft poses significant risks, including the potential for collisions or interference with crucial flight operations. Safe drone operation near aircraft is essential to protect not only the aircraft and its passengers but also individuals on the ground.
Potential dangers and risks of drones near aircraft
The risks associated with drones near aircraft are multifaceted. Firstly, drones can collide with aircraft, causing damage to critical components and potentially leading to accidents. Secondly, drones can interfere with the operation of aircraft systems, such as navigation and communication. Lastly, the presence of drones near aircraft can distract pilots and compromise their ability to operate the aircraft safely.
June 2022 – Flying near an open-cockpit gyrocopter
In June 2022, Milinovic unsafely operated his drone near an open-cockpit gyrocopter off the coast of Crescent Bay Beach in Laguna Beach. He flew the drone within 10 to 20 feet of the gyrocopter, forcing the gyrocopter’s operator to make an emergency course correction to avoid a collision with the drone.
July 2022 – Flying near a Discovery Channel blimp
In July 2022, Milinovic flew his drone dangerously close to a Discovery Channel blimp flying over the Pacific Ocean in the Laguna Beach area. The blimp’s pilot estimated that the drone was on a collision course, prompting him to navigate a life-threatening emergency crash landing.
March 2023 – Flying near a Coast Guard helicopter
In March 2023, Milinovic flew his drone near a Coast Guard helicopter operating at an altitude of 200 to 300 feet above sea level in Laguna Beach. The drone came within 200 feet of the helicopter, posing a significant risk to the flight crew. The crew had to maneuver the helicopter to avoid a potential collision with the drone.
Milinovic pleads guilty to three misdemeanor counts of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft
Alexander Milinovic entered a guilty plea for three misdemeanor counts related to unsafe operation of his drone near various aircraft. The charges reflect the severity of his actions and the potential risks he posed to air safety.
Potential consequences and penalties for unsafe drone operation near aircraft
Unsafe drone operation near aircraft is a violation of federal regulations and can lead to significant legal consequences. Milinovic’s guilty plea may result in penalties such as fines, probation, or imprisonment. The maximum statutory sentence for each count is one year in federal prison.
Scheduled sentencing hearing on November 28, 2023
Alexander Milinovic’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 28, 2023. At the hearing, the court will consider various factors, including the seriousness of the offenses and any mitigating factors, in determining an appropriate sentence. Milinovic faces a maximum statutory sentence of one year in federal prison for each count.
Notified by videos on TikTok showing Milinovic’s drone flying dangerously close to aircraft
Law enforcement authorities became aware of Alexander Milinovic’s unsafe drone operation through videos posted on the social media platform TikTok. These videos depicted Milinovic flying his drone dangerously close to various types of aircraft, raising concerns about the potential risks posed by his actions.
Joint Terrorism Task Force involvement
The investigation into Milinovic’s drone operation involved the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which comprises federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The involvement of this task force underscores the seriousness of the potential threats posed by unsafe drone operation near aircraft.
Assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration and the United States Coast Guard
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the United States Coast Guard provided assistance during the investigation. These agencies, responsible for regulating and ensuring aviation safety, played a crucial role in evaluating the evidence and determining the extent of the risks posed by Milinovic’s drone operation.
Case being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer L. Waier of the Santa Ana Branch Office
The prosecution of Alexander Milinovic is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer L. Waier of the Santa Ana Branch Office. As a federal prosecutor, Waier will present the evidence against Milinovic and argue for an appropriate sentence based on the nature and severity of the offenses.
Importance of Safe Drone Operation
Ensuring the safety of aircraft and their passengers
Safe drone operation near aircraft is paramount to protect the safety of aircraft and their passengers. Irresponsible and unsafe drone operation can result in accidents, injuries, and potential loss of life. Adhering to regulations and best practices for drone operation helps maintain a safe aviation environment.
Respecting the rules and regulations regarding drone operation
Operating drones responsibly requires a thorough understanding of the rules and regulations set forth by the FAA and other relevant authorities. Drone operators must be aware of airspace restrictions, altitude limitations, and the need for authorization when flying near airports and other sensitive areas. By respecting these rules, drone operators contribute to aviation safety.
The importance of responsible and safe drone operation to ensure the safety of both drone operators and aircraft pilots.
The case of Alexander Milinovic highlights the significance of responsible and safe drone operation. Irresponsible actions, such as flying drones near aircraft, can have severe consequences and pose significant risks to aviation safety. The adherence to regulations, guidelines, and best practices is crucial in minimizing the potential dangers associated with drones near aircraft. By operating drones safely and responsibly, both drone operators and aircraft pilots can maintain a secure and harmonious airspace.