Small drone crashes at White House complex, origin unclear

Small drone crashes at White House complex, origin unclear
# 26 January 2015 19:10 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. A small drone flying low to the ground crashed onto the White House grounds before dawn Monday, triggering a major emergency response and raising fresh questions about security at the presidential mansion, APA reports quoting Associated Press.

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 the drone did not pose a threat.

The Secret Service launched an immediate investigation into the origins of the drone, which crashed on the southeast side of the White House grounds just after 3 a.m. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said officials were also working to identify any suspects and determine what their motive might have been.

The device was described as a two-foot-long quadcopter — an 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 Secret Service said the drone discovered Monday was of the commercially available variety.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama are traveling in India and were not present for the incident, 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. At the urging of the drone industry, the Obama administration is on the verge of proposing rules for drone operations that would replace an existing ban on most commercial flights.

Although remote-controlled airplanes and related toys have been available for decades, 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.