SANTA ANA, California (July 13, 2023)– An Orange County man pleaded guilty today to federal criminal charges for unsafely operating a drone aircraft on several occasions, including once flying it near a United States Coast Guard helicopter in mid-flight off the coast of Laguna Beach.

Alexander Milinovic, 62, of Laguna Beach, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft.

According to his plea agreement, Milinovic unsafely operated a drone on three occasions from June 2022 to March 2023.

On June 19, 2022, Milinovic launched his drone at a father and son who were flying an open-cockpit gyrocopter on Father’s Day. Milinovic flew the unmanned aircraft to within 10 to 20 feet of the gyrocopter, which was off the coast of Crescent Bay Beach in Laguna Beach, which caused the son, who was operating the gyrocopter, to make an emergency course correction to avoid striking the drone and crashing into the Pacific Ocean.

On July 26, 2022, Milinovic launched a drone at and flew it next to a Discovery Channel “Shark Week” blimp flying at an altitude between 500 and 1,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean in the Laguna Beach area. The blimp’s pilot estimated the drone to be in line with hitting the blimp and causing him to navigate a life-threatening emergency crash landing.

On March 19, 2023, four members of a Coast Guard flight crew were flying a rescue helicopter about 200 to 300 feet above sea level in Laguna Beach. Milinovic launched a drone and flew it directly at the Coast Guard helicopter, coming to within 200 feet of it. The crew maneuvered the helicopter away from the drone, fearing it would hit their tail rotor and cause the helicopter to crash into the Pacific Ocean.

Law enforcement was notified in November 2022 of videos posted on the TikTok social media application that showed Milinovic’s drone flying dangerously close to aircraft.

United States District Judge Fred W. Slaughter scheduled a November 28 sentencing hearing, at which time Milinovic will face a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison for each count.

The FBI and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigated this matter as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration and the United States Coast Guard.

Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer L. Waier of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting this case.

View similar criminal cases involving the use of drones – C-UAS Hub Multimedia Library- Civil, Criminal, and Investigative Information

Post Image- Photograph of a U.S. Coast Guard Jayhawk Helicopter (Image Credit: Adobe Stock by Rob Byron)