Have drones gone too far? At left is the South Lawn of the White House (AP photo / Thinkstock)
Have drones gone too far?
Lexile

A small drone flying low to the ground crashed onto the White House grounds, triggering a major emergency response and raising fresh questions about security at the presidential mansion. A man later came forward to say he was responsible and didn't mean to fly it over the complex.

The man contacted the Secret Service after reports of the crash spread in the media, a U.S. official said. The man told the agency that he had been flying the drone recreationally. The man is a Washington resident and is cooperating with investigators.

Although President Barack Obama was not at home, the security breach prompted a lockdown of the entire complex until officials could examine the drone. The White House later said it did not pose a threat.

The drone crashed on the southeast side of the White House grounds just after 3 a.m. Monday, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said.

Secret Service agents are now interviewing other people to corroborate the man's story, and they don't currently have any reason to doubt the man's story, the official said.

The device was described as a two-foot-long quadcopter a commercially available unmanned aircraft that is lifted by four propellers. Many small quadcopters are essentially sophisticated toys that can also be useful for commercial operations like aerial photography and inspections. Often weighing only a few pounds, they sell for as little as a few hundred dollars or less, and were popular Christmas gifts last year.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama were traveling in India, but their daughters, Sasha and Malia, may have been at home. White House officials declined to comment on the daughters' whereabouts Monday, but ahead of the president's trip aides had said the daughters would remain in Washington so as not to miss school.

"The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House," said presidential spokesman Josh Earnest.

Still, the incident was likely to reinvigorate a long-running public debate about the use of commercial drones in U.S. skies as well as White House security. The Secret Service is still recovering after a string of breaches that raised questions about whether the president is adequately protected.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a chief critic of Secret Service leadership, said the agency has been working for some time to figure out how to deal with the threat posed by unmanned aircraft. He said a wake-up call came in 2013 when a camera drone crashed in front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a campaign event in Germany.

"Any time you can breach the White House perimeter, it's deeply concerning," Chaffetz said in an interview Monday. "You don't know if it's some guy in a van down by the river controlling the drone or somebody who has some very nefarious intentions."

The recent proliferation of inexpensive drones has prompted growing fears about potential collisions with traditional aircraft. Technological advances have also made it easier to equip drones with advanced capabilities such as cameras, raising privacy issues as well as concerns that such devices could carry weapons.

Industry experts said that to carry and fire a weapon, a drone would need more engines and more propellers than most commercially manufactured quadcopters.

Critical thinking challenge: Give two reasons why the drone did not pose a threat to the president.

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COMMENTS (46)
  • johanna.galloway34
    1/29/2015 - 12:46 p.m.

    It didn't threat the president because it didn't even have anything in common with the daughters or the president. Why did they think it's a threat? Is it a toy where it can hit the president?

  • Stephenpa-Fre
    1/29/2015 - 12:57 p.m.

    Yes i do think that drones have gone to far because they are being used for more then just a toy to have fun with now. many people have them and are spying on people.

  • nicholas.jones07
    1/29/2015 - 12:58 p.m.

    I believe that this all just a accident and everything will be back to normal at the White House soon. At least the man confessed and did the right thing and if it posed no threat, I see no reason to worry. It wasn't even equipped with a camera. I believe that this isn't about the drone at all- I believe that this actually about the Obama family's safety.

  • pabloc-DiB
    1/29/2015 - 01:46 p.m.

    Drones are expensive but very cool to fly and play around ,it has a camera that you can record your flying or anything you want to record with a high resolution that films everything perfectly.
    I think adults should only fly this because is kinda hard and dangerous by hitting someone in the head, unless the child is trained.

  • treyb-Che
    1/29/2015 - 01:53 p.m.

    have drones gone too far a small drones flying low to the ground crashed onto the white house ground triggering a major emergency response and raising fresh questions about security at the presidential mansion.

  • luiss-DiB
    1/29/2015 - 01:53 p.m.

    I think that they made a pretty big deal about it. Although it did trigger the White's hose security system, it was just an honest mistake done by a normal citizen just trying to have some fun.

  • brandonj-Koc
    1/29/2015 - 03:17 p.m.

    Drones have rapidly been becoming more and more popular in America and are not going away anytime soon and has made a big impact on many people's lives having the government regulate drones will not solve the problem.

  • alexcl-Lam
    1/29/2015 - 04:33 p.m.

    Just yesterday I watched this on YouTube, so I already knew about it, but it was still interesting to read about this.

  • CThomas-Cas
    1/29/2015 - 05:19 p.m.

    Two reasons why the drone did not pose a threat was the man who was flying the drone, stood up and said he did it, so he obviously wasn't trying to hurt anyone. Also when they examined it on the ground they found nothing dangerous on it. Though this time it wasn't a threat, it could be a problem in the future. Unless they make The White House a no fly zone, which I don't think they will, anybody can fly a drone around The White House.

  • kylee-Koc
    1/29/2015 - 07:49 p.m.

    I think our secret service needs to beef up on there surveillance of anything. Even the small things they might see, or a tragedy will happen at the white house. Or another way it happened is that the secret service let the no threat drone hit the grass. So now anyone that has had the idea of putting a bomb on one and attack the white house, will have the idea that the secret service is looking out for them now. Also at the end of the article they say a commercial drone cant carry a deadly weapon. I would like to see a test on this to see if it is true or not.

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