Now, authorities are searching for ways to crack down on drone operators.
VIDEO: CHP helicopter nearly collides with drone over Martinez
Pilots across the Bay Area said drones are their newest flight hazard. "Control tower reported there was a drone flying around 800 feet, so that puts me within 200 feet of that other aircraft that's flying around me and that's pretty close," pilot instructor Jay Weyas said.
Weyas is a pilot and instructor at Buchanan Field Airport in Concord and said his close encounter happened just a few months ago.
The FAA expects nearly half a million new drones will be launched this holiday season as new gifts to amateur operators, so they're working with airports across the country like the San Francisco International Airport to roll out new public service announcements that will advise things such as: "Fly your drone below 400 feet. Avoid flying your drone near airports, stadiums and people."
The CHP pilots were able to track the drone operator to his home.
Martinez police contacted him on the ground, but didn't make an arrest or issue a citation because this falls under the FAA's jurisdiction. But it's not a federal police agency and instead issues fines.
Penalties aside, pilots just want drone operators to fly safely. They don't want to crash into a two-pound piece of plastic and tin. "It doesn't have to damage the helicopter other than the windshield. If you incapacitate the pilot, it's absolutely catastrophic," Ofc. Jim Andrews said.
Any time a drone flies over 400 feet, pilots say it's entering into their airspace.