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Two drones almost collide with NYPD helicopter

Two drones nearly hit a New York Police Department helicopter flying over the George Washington Bridge early Monday, and officers arrested the wayward drones' operators, police say.

The story was first reported by the New York Post.

According to police, the Aviation Unit chopper was on patrol some 2,000 feet up when the drones, which are unmanned aircraft, headed toward it at around 12:15 a.m. The helicopter had to swerve to avoid a collision.

A Post source called it a "very dangerous" scenario.

"Although [drones] may only weigh a few pounds, that's all birds weigh, and look what they did to the Sully Airbus," the Post quotes its source as saying -- referring to the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson," in which US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger to crash-land a jetliner in the Hudson River after a bird strike. Sullenberger is now a CBS News aviation and safety expert.

The police chopper followed the drones until they landed nearby. The helicopter's crew called street patrol officers, who arrested Remy Castro, 23, and Wilkins Mendoza, 34, and charged the Manhattan residents with reckless endangerment.

A friend, Jonathan Reyes, 27, told the Post that Castro and Mendoza bought the drones within the last two weeks for $500 to $700 each.

He said Castro told him they had bought the drones "just for the fun of it" and have flown them as high as 5,000 feet.

A law-enforcement source told the Post the drones "represent a threat to aviation safety, from helicopters to much larger aircraft."

Safety isn't the only issue.

As domestic drones use has increased, so has the concern of privacy watchdogs who worry about the aircraft being used for illegitimate purposes.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller told CBS New York that as drones become cheaper and more widely marketed, more people will buy them.

The FAA has only recently begun creating regulations for and allowing the use of commercial and private drones in American airspace.

Miller said the drones that have come to New York City did not have sinister purposes, like the one that flew over what was temporarily renamed Super Bowl Boulevard in Times Square this past winter and caused a bit of a stir.

"It was traced to a window that it was returned to, and an individual received a summons there for violation of that airspace regulation," Miller said.

That drone was taking photos for a commercial.

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