Drone Crashes on White House Lawn; Pilot Claims Recreational Purposes for Flight

Drone Crashes on White House Lawn; Pilot Claims Recreational Purposes for Flight
The Secret Service released this image of the crashed drone as found on the White House lawn.

A quadcopter crashed on the White House lawn early this morning.

The rig, which appears from the released photo to be a white DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter with its propeller guards installed, hit the ground just after 3am, flying at “a very low altitude” according to Secret Service spokesperson Brian Leary.

A person has since come forward claiming responsibility for the crash, stating that it was a recreational flight. The New York Times reports that the yet-unnamed pilot is a government employee, but does not work at the White House. Reports state that he is cooperating with the Secret Service on questioning and investigations.

Washington DC is currently restricted airspace, prohibiting the flight of drones of any type.

This event exposes the complexities and concerns that may need to be considered as the FAA proceeds in attempting to create legislation on remote or autonomous aerial vehicle use. It also serves as a reminder of just how difficult it can be to secure a building like the White House.

The timing of the crash is unfortunate, coming just a week after various representatives from small-drone businesses convened in Washington DC to appeal to lawmakers for FAA requirements that won’t stifle the nascent industry.

It also comes only days after a hexacopter carrying a load of drugs crashed into a Tijuana parking lot near the US-Mexico border.

The two incidents could be potentially harmful to the nascent small-drone industry, but some are still calling for thorough examination before rushing to pass laws against the flying machines.

“By all accounts, this was a small personal drone with no ability to harm the President,” writes Brendan Schulman, a lawyer specializing in drone law, in an email to Make:. “I hope the incident doesn’t cause an overreaction by government officials that might hinder people who enjoy building and finding great uses for this technology. With regulations on the way, people in the Maker community ought to get engaged with lawmakers if they are concerned that these flying robots might soon be regulated just like full sized aircraft or restricted in other ways by state governments.”

On twitter, Schulman writes “I’m going to speculate that radio jamming may have downed the White House drone. People have detected RF issues near embassies, etc.”

He also recalled the time a pilot crashed a stolen Cessna into the White House 21 years ago.


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Mike Senese

Mike Senese is a content producer with a focus on technology, science, and engineering. He served as Executive Editor of Make: magazine for nearly a decade, and previously was a senior editor at Wired. Mike has also starred in engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with electronics, fixing cars, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza. You might spot him at his local skatepark in the SF Bay Area.

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