President Barack Obama says the drone that dropped into the White House grounds on Monday points to a “broader problem” -- balancing security and privacy with recreation and that he’s asked federal agencies to look into the issue.
In a CNN interview conducted before he left India, Obama said he’d leave details of the incident to the Secret Service. But he said he’s asked the Federal Aviation Administration and a number of other federal agencies to examine how the U.S. is handling the small unmanned helicopters that are popular with photographers and aviation buffs and are being considered for package delivery by companies such as Amazon.
“The drone that landed in the White House,” he noted, “You buy in Radio Shack.”
He suggested the drones can be used for “incredibly useful functions,” including for farmers who are managing crops and for conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife.
But, he added, “we don't really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it. ” He said he’s asked relevant agencies to talk to various stakeholders and “figure out how we're going to put an architecture in place that makes sure that these things aren't dangerous and that they're not violating people's privacy.”
He likened the issue to cyberspace and said some emerging technologies “have the capacity to empower individuals in ways that we couldn’t even imagine 10-15 years ago.
“But we don't yet have the legal structures and the architecture both globally and within individual countries to manage them the way that we need to,” he said. “And part of my job over the past several years and over the next couple of years that I'm still in office is seeing if we can start providing some sort of framework that ensures that we get the good and minimize the bad.”
UPDATE: The New York Times reports the drone operator was apparently drunk and test driving a friend’s quadcopter when it crashed at the White House.
The individual, who has yet to be identified, was identified as an employee with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The agency says the employee was off duty at the time “and is not involved in work related to drones or unmanned aerial vehicles in any capacity at NGA.”
Spokesman Don Kerr added that although the employee was using a personal item while off duty, “the agency takes the incident very seriously and remains committed to promoting public trust and transparency.”
The Secret Service is currently investigating the incident.