Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, was arrested by FBI agents Thursday and charged with one count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft, the Justice Department said.
The criminal case is believed to be the first in the nation stemming from a drone collision.
The incident occurred Sept. 18, when LAPD officers responded to a burglary at a Hollywood pharmacy and needed air support. The pilot wasn't able to avoid the drone and had to land after the collision.
Federal authorities claim that the accident could have been deadly.
“If the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,” according to the complaint.
Hernandez admitted to flying the drone, controlling it via a device attached to his smartphone. He reportedly was using the drone to “see what was going on.”
“This case resulted from a serious incident that could have ended very badly as a result of the reckless actions of the drone operator,” Thom Mrozek, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman, said.
LAPD officers located parts of the drone near the pharmacy, as well as a damaged vehicle that the drone also struck as it fell.
Investigators identified Hernandez based on camera footage taken by the drone. The misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to a year in prison.
Authorities do not believe Hernandez intentionally caused the drone to ram the copter.