Update: A drone hobbyist has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s quadcopter crash on the grounds of the White House, according to reports. According to the USA Today, the man is a government official, but does not work at the White House. A U.S. official says the man contacted the Secret Service after reports of the crash spread in the media. The man told the Secret Service he was using the drone recreationally and didn’t mean to fly it over the White House.
The Secret Service says a two-foot quadcopter crashed into a tree on the southeast side of the White House grounds just after 3 a.m. Monday morning. Press Secretary Josh Earnest, however, says early indications are that the device didn’t pose a threat.
“There was an immediate alert and lockdown of the complex until the device was examined and cleared,” the Secret Service said in its statement. Officials locked down the perimeter around the White House in the early hours of Monday as officials examined the drone.
President Barack Obama and the first lady are both in India, while their daughters, Sasha and Malia, stayed in Washington with their grandmother, Marian Robinson.
According to Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary, an officer saw the drone flying at a very low altitude before it crashed in a tree. Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed around the White House while the device was examined. The White House and the entire perimeter was on lockdown until around 5 a.m., when pass holders who work in the complex were allowed inside.
“An investigation is underway to determine the origin of this commercially available device, motive, and to identify suspects,” the Secret Service says in the statement. “As additional information becomes available we will update our statement.”
No Flying Drones at the White House
Again, here’s a friendly reminder to know the rules of the air before flying your drone. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has some strict rules against flying your drone. Hobbyist flyers must keep drones under 400 feet at all times and away from airports, national parks, military bases and government buildings, such as the White House.
It’s still unclear who was flying the drone, but the FAA also restricts flying drones for business purposes, unless you are granted special authorization.
A relatively small drone carrying a C-4 explosive could cause a significant amount of damage. And in 2011, federal authorities stopped Rezwan Ferdaus who planned to fly drones packed with explosives into the Pentagon.
Ground vehicles are banned from Pennsylvania Avenue, the street directly in front of the White House. And trucks are prohibited on the street just west of the property.
Today’s drone incident follows a series of lapses in security at the White House and a shake-up in the leadership at the Secret Service. In September 2014, a knife-wielding man scaled the White House fence and ran through much of its main floor. An armed private security contractor in Atlanta also boarded an elevator with Obama that same month.
Drones are a growing security concern. While they admit it’s a “pretty small” concern, authorities are addressing the possibility that terrorists could use drones to attack Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 1.