Around 3 a.m. last monday Monday, a small, recreational unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – or drone – crashed on the grounds of the White House, turning our attention to concerns of safety and privacy on a much larger scale.
In an interview the day after the crash, President Barack Obama used the incident to call for immediate action, reemphasizing the importance and need for drone regulations to ensure “these things aren’t dangerous and that they’re not violating people’s privacy.”
In the interview with CNN, Obama said that he has asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other agencies to look into the management of the new and increasingly popular technology because “the drone that landed in the White House you buy at RadioShack,” emphasizing the wide availability to the general public.
Although the drone – a 2-foot-by-2-foot “quadcopter” called DJI Phantom 2 – was not considered a threat, it did slip through White House radar and raise bigger concerns regarding the safety and security of the White House and those within.
While understanding and commenting on the “incredibly useful functions” of drones, such as farming, delivery and conservation work, Obama made the point that “we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all.”
“These technologies that we’re developing have the capacity to empower individuals in ways that we couldn’t even imagine 10-15 years ago,” Obama said. Obama also said that he is working to create a framework that “ensures that we get the good and minimize the bad.”
While all this is going on, several lawmakers are saying that the White House and U.S. Secret Service needs an improved early warning system that can detect devices that are “too small for conventional aircraft radar.” As such, DroneShield, a D.C.-based company focused on drone detection and warning systems, may be the answer to the district’s problem. DroneShield uses “patent-pending acoustic detection technology” that provides high detection rates, low false alarms, and the ability to detect drones “without RF links (IE on auto-pilot) or that are invisible to radar (most small, plastic drones are).” According to Fox 5 DC, DroneShield investors expect a boom in drone flights and the need for detection systems once the FAA has ironed out the rules.
Additionally, DJI, the maker of the crashed drone, reported that they will be disabling its devices from flying over the D.C. area. “DJI will release a mandatory firmware update for the Phantom 2, Phantom 2 Vision, and Phantom 2 Vision+ to help users comply with the FAA’s Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) 0/8326, which restricts unmanned flight around the Washington, DC metropolitan area,” the company stated in an official release. “The updated firmware (V3.10) will be released in coming days and adds a No-Fly Zone centered on downtown Washington, DC and extends for a 25 kilometer (15.5 mile) radius in all directions. Phantom pilots in this area will not be able to take off from or fly into this airspace.”
According to CNN, the FAA is currently developing regulations allowing for wider use of the drones after calls from Congress and the President. Current rules restrict UAV pilots from flying in Washington, D.C., over 400 feet, near airports and out of the pilot’s line of sight.
Wall Street Journal
Fox 5 DC
Image Source: U.S. Secret Service