White House Drone

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The “Drone lands on the White House lawn” incident: A timeline

5 Feb , 2015  

One of the most talked about events of in the realm of UAVs in the recent months was the “Drone lands on the White House lawn” incident, which occured on Janurary 26, 2015. First, lets describe the events and the way the media reported on it.

  • Reports of a “drone” landing on the White House lawn start coming out on January 26th 2015. Initial reports don’t know how or why this happened. Its all speculation at this point. An example of the reporting is titled: Security Breach at White House, Unarmed Drone Lands on North Lawn by ABC News.
  • The media identies owner of said “drone” as a government employee who was drunk and decided to fly his roomates Phantom at 3am. Said government employee, fearing for his job, turns himself in. NYTimes Reports. January 26th 2015, a couple of hours after the initial reports.

    He texted his friends, worried that the drone had gone down on the White House grounds, and then went to sleep. It was not until the next morning, when he woke and learned from friends that a drone had been found at the White House, that he contacted his employer, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He then called the Secret Service and immediately began cooperating with an investigation into the incident.

  • President Obama calls on the FAA for more regulation. CNN reports. January 27 2015.

    “You know that there are companies like Amazon that are talking about using small drones to deliver packages… There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife.” Obama said. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”

  • DJI announced that they will issue a patch for their flight controllers that will not allow flying in restricted areas, such as the white house. The Verge reports. January 28 2015.

    DJI also said “the restriction is part of a planned extension of DJI’s No Fly Zone system that prohibits flight near airports and other locations where flight is restricted by local authorities. These extended no fly zones will include over 10,000 airports registered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and will expand no fly zones to ensure they cover the runways at major international airports.”

  • AMA President Bob Brown calls for education rather than more regulation. From the Development Communications Coordinator for AMA Public Relations and Development. Janurary 30 2015

    We understand the potential for bad people using any good technology for bad things. We do not support the use of the technology outside of AMA guidelines. We do believe, however, that flown within the envelope of AMA’s safety programming, this new technology is as safe, or safer, than any other modeling discipline in which our members participate.

  • The drunken Phantom flyer want to apologize to the Obama Family. CNN reports. February 2 2015.

    “He just wanted to have a short flight around his apartment… (name of flyer) is a scientist. He likes to tinker with things so he’s real interested in this drone. He’s experimenting with it. And he thought he wanted to see what would happen if he could take it out the window and bring it back.”

What have we learned about this? A small UAV, such as a Phantom, can crash-land on the White House lawn, one of the most protected areas in the world, and nobody can do anything about it. I thought that the White House had signal jamming tech, or some cannons that could shoot down a threat. Nope. We’ve also learned that Obama, known for his use of drones in a miliatry context, believes that regulation will stop the bad guys.

We’ve also learned that DJI reacts quickly to issue firmware updates that would prevent this from happening in the future, because every UAV uses GPS, every UAV is a Phantom 2, and every user makes sure to update firmware.

Hey, it wasn’t his fault the Phantom flew away, blame it on the Chinese!

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