Small Drone Crashes On White House Lawn

A device that has since been identified as a “small drone” was found early this morning on the White House lawn:

A small drone was found on the White House grounds early Monday, news reports said, but officials said it was recovered and posed no ongoing threat.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest, speaking to reporters in New Delhi, said the Secret Service found a “device” and was investigating the latest breach of perimeter security at the executive mansion. He gave no further details.

The Associated Press and others described the object as a “quadcopter,” a commercially available drone with four propellers.

There was no official comment from authorities on the drone reports.

Earnest said the device did not pose a threat to the building or the first family. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were in India, but were not accompanied by their daughters Sasha and Malia.

It was not immediately clear whether the girls were at the White House when the device was discovered before dawn. They were under the care of their grandmother, who also lives at the White House.

“There is a device that has been recovered by the Secret Service at the White House,” Earnest said when asked if a drone was found. “The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House.”

Around 5 a.m., authorities could be seen searching the White House grounds with flashlights. Investigators continued the search after sunrise as a light snow fell.

Based on other reports, it does appear that agents were aware of the drone before it crashed, but it’s unclear whether they did anything to cause it to crash or whether it crashed on its own. It’s also unclear where the drone came from, and while it may turn out that there is an innocent explanation for all of this, this is yet another example of security vulnerabilities at what i supposed to be the most secure building in the world.

Update: The New York Times is reporting that the person responsible for the drone has been identified as “a government employee” who says that flying the drone that close to the White House was a mistake:

WASHINGTON — The small drone that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn of the White House early Monday morning was operated by a government employee who has told the Secret Service that he did not mean to fly it over the White House fence and near the president’s residence, according to law enforcement officials.

The employee — who does not work for the White House — has told the Secret Service that he was flying the drone for recreational purposes at about 3 a.m. in the area around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when he lost control of it.

So far, the Secret Service said it believed the man’s account.

The small, commercial quad copter drone crashed on the southeast grounds, forcing a brief lockdown of the White House complex, the Secret Service said.

Officials said in a statement that a Secret Service officer posted on the south grounds of the White House “heard and observed” the device, which was about two feet in diameter, at about 3:08 a.m.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, who is traveling with President Obama and Michelle Obama in India, said the drone did not appear to be dangerous. Mr. and Mrs. Obama are on a three-day visit to India, but their daughters, Malia and Sasha, are in Washington.

“There is a device that has been recovered by the Secret Service at the White House,” Mr. Earnest told reporters. “The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House.”

Flying a drone for recreational purposes? At 3am? Near the White House?

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    I’d hate to be in White House Security these days.

    Between the completely unhinged nuts who hate the president, and new technology like drones that enable people to create havoc and kill by remote-control, how can you manage the security risk down to a level that is acceptable to the president and the people?

  2. gVOR08 says:

    @al-Ameda: I expect they would have also really loved to be asked to protect the President in Paris on two day’s notice.

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    But how about the serious questions — is Joe Biden’s Trans Am OK?

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Seriously–who is downvoting this comment? Is it just because it’s from Jenos?

    I thought if there was one thing conservatives and liberals could agree on, it’s that the Onion’s “Biden” articles are g_ddamned funny.

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I presume, sir, you’ve seen this non-Onion article…

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    That’s fantastic.

  7. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Holy crap, I’m in tears over here…hahahahaha…

    White House aides said that Biden pulled into the driveway shortly before noon, the chorus of Night Ranger’s “(You Can Still) Rock In America” blaring from his car’s stereo…For the remainder of the day, Biden occupied himself with hosing off his car, giving the side doors an extra coat of wax, and throwing out a variety of items from beneath its front seats, including crumpled-up fast food wrappers, a number of soft packs of Doral kings, an issue of Cheri magazine from 1991, and Senate bill S. 486.

  8. Mikey says:

    I have a little quadcopter. It’s cool as hell, it even has a little camera on it. Maybe Anonymous Government Employee was trying to get some nifty nighttime aerial photos of the Ellipse or something.

    Or maybe he was just drunk and couldn’t fly the thing straight. They’re kind of a pain in the ass.

  9. Electroman says:

    Where’s Mathias Rust been recently?

  10. Tim says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I presume, sir, you’ve seen this non-Onion article…

    When I looked at the picture of the “Joe Biden” in Jalopnik, bare chested and standing next to the TransAm, my first thought was that it was “Mr. Baseball” himself, Bob Uecker.

  11. Tyrell says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Pontiac Trans Am with the eagle and hood scoop : I saw one of these last fall. There is only one car better: the 1970 Pontiac GTO.
    Pontiac was one of GM’s best division. Their catchphrase “we build excitement !” was certainly true. We remember with fondness the Pontiacs of NASCAR’s Fireball Roberts, Junior Johnson, Rex White, Cotton Owens, Joe Weatherly, and Bobby Allison.
    It is too bad and totally baffling why GM dropped the Pony. Too much competition for Chevy ? Or some other reason. They were making some good cars and showing a profit. The G6 was a good car.

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Tyrell: Pontiac was dumped as part of the federal bailout/takeover of GM. I miss ’em too.

    You KNOW that Joe Biden wasn’t part of that decision, though… (to bring it full circle)

  13. Matt says:

    You know we used to call those models. Model planes model helicopters etc. Now every hobbiest at the local strip is a drone pilot….

  14. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Flying a drone for recreational purposes? At 3am? Near the White House?

    You’re absolutely right, Doug; we should extraordinarily rendition this guy to Uzbekibekistanstan and waterboard him until he confesses that he was the one who pirated Obama’s birth notice into the Honolulu Daily Journal all those years ago.

    Or until he confesses to being a jihadist–which ever confession we can get first.