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Operator of Drone That Crashed at White House Won't Face Charges

Federal prosecutors will not pursue criminal charges against the operator of a small drone that crashed on the grounds of the White House.

Federal prosecutors say they will not pursue criminal charges against a man who operated a small drone that crashed on the grounds of the White House. The man lost control of the recreational quadcopter and didn't know it landed on the South Lawn of the White House until he saw news reports the next morning, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia said on Wednesday. The mishap occurred early Jan. 26. According to a Secret Service investigation, the man borrowed the drone from a friend and flew it for fun around his apartment and outside his window in downtown Washington. Around 3 a.m., the drone was outside over 10th Street when it apparently rose to an altitude of about 100 feet and started drifting west out of control.

"The man knew that the drone's battery was nearing the end of its charge and expected that it would crash somewhere over the Mall. He went to sleep not knowing where the drone had gone. After he awoke to news reports of the crash on the White House grounds, he self-reported the incident to the Secret Service," the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. "A forensic analysis of the drone determined that it was not operating under the direction of its controller when it crashed at the White House."

Federal officials did not identify the man, but previous reports said he worked for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Although the man won’t face criminal charges, he could face possible civil fines from the Federal Aviation Administration, which bans drone flights around Washington.



— James Eng and Pete Williams