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. It triggered a major emergency response. And it raised 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. The man told the agency that he had been flying the drone recreationally. The man is a Washington resident. He is cooperating with investigators.

Although President Barack Obama was not at home, the security breach prompted a lockdown of the entire complex. Officials first needed to 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. The incident occurred just after 3 a.m. Monday.

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

The device was described as a two-foot-long quadcopter. It's a commercially available unmanned aircraft. It is lifted by four propellers. Many small quadcopters are essentially sophisticated toys. They 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. Many were popular Christmas gifts last year.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama were traveling in India. 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.

"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. They raised questions about whether the president is adequately protected.

Inexpensive drones have 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. That's raised privacy issues. It also raises 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 (233)
  • blakeriley45
    1/29/2015 - 12:53 p.m.

    I do not think it possible to put a firearm on a drone that is operational. My friend has one with a camera that comes out with the blurriest picture. The White House staff shouldn't worry for a drone to have a weapon that is operational. It is not possible. The weight of any weapon would be too great for a small drone to carry. The bigger ones might be able to carry one, but it would be complex to get it to fire or aim from mid air.

  • dylan.goodwin34
    1/29/2015 - 12:54 p.m.

    I read that a drone hit the side of the White House. The Secret Service had to come to see what happened. The man that owned the drown said that it was a accident.

  • Kieranfi-Fre
    1/29/2015 - 01:01 p.m.

    I don't think that the man did it on purpose. I also don't think that the secret service should spend too much time on this situation. My dad has a drone and he lost his. Turns out it went over someone's fence. I think this is like the same situation. He probably lost his and didn't know it went. I don't think it apposed a threat because 1 it didn't have a bomb on it and 2 the drone probably was not a high tech drone that did not have a lot of gadgets on it.

  • LukeT-Jac
    1/29/2015 - 01:19 p.m.

    I don't think that person should have been flying it neat the white house but I don't think it should have caused a lock down and him to be interrogated by secret services.

  • EvaK-Jac
    1/29/2015 - 01:20 p.m.

    Two ways the drone did not pose a threat to the president are one the president was not even on the continent when this event took place. The second reason would be that the drone was harmless and was a toy therefore it did not have to capacity to be a threat. I can see why some people think it is a threat though because the presidents daughters might have been in the white house at the time. But if so they might have not been on the side of the building.

  • EricF-Jac
    1/29/2015 - 01:35 p.m.

    I do not believe that the drone was a threat to the White House or the president. Drones are not harmful to anyone they simply fly around. But drones do take away some privacy. Now with new types of cameras like Go Pros that are able to connect to the drone anyone can get an air view of anything. Drones could be a posing threat to us in the future as they get more high tech but for now the man was not threat to the White House or the president.

  • ReneT-Jac
    1/29/2015 - 02:06 p.m.

    I personally think that quad copters are both fun and cool. I own a quad copter myself and use it to earn money. I use my drone for Ariel photography on real estate. I have angered people (not on purpose) because I invaded their privacy. My drone is mainly for photography but some are used in the military. Some drones have a range of tens of miles, but mine is only 300 meters. I try my best not to "invade peoples privacy" but some people are naturally afraid of these things. The reason why people are afraid of these things are because they have never seen one. Also some people might think its spying on you or your property because most quad copters have a high quality camera. After reading the article above I thought there was a mishap on the drone. Thank you for reading my comment!

  • ReneT-Jac
    1/29/2015 - 02:06 p.m.

    I personally think that quad copters are both fun and cool. I own a quad copter myself and use it to earn money. I use my drone for Ariel photography on real estate. I have angered people (not on purpose) because I invaded their privacy. My drone is mainly for photography but some are used in the military. Some drones have a range of tens of miles, but mine is only 300 meters. I try my best not to "invade peoples privacy" but some people are naturally afraid of these things. The reason why people are afraid of these things are because they have never seen one. Also some people might think its spying on you or your property because most quad copters have a high quality camera. After reading the article above I thought there was a mishap on the drone. Thank you for reading my comment!

  • HectorS-Jac
    1/29/2015 - 02:08 p.m.

    First of all he had to be in the area to see that the helicopter was flown into the place, but if he saw that the helicopter was starting to go in why didn't he try to pull it back. That was was talking about his mistake but what about the White Houses mistake. That is the place where the President, his wife, and his kids live. What if the helicopter was a threat like that the entire White House could have been gone. What I think they can do is add higher fences it won't be high enough to block out helicopters, but if you are sneaky enough to climb a fence then you can easily do something. That is why the fences should be the size of a basketball hoop so that nobody can jump the fence.

  • Riley-Arm
    1/29/2015 - 02:10 p.m.

    This could have been really bad if the drone had a weapon on it because the white house probably would have gone into lock down.

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