Drone crashes at White House, exposing security weakness. This is why we can't have nice UAVs


Oh dear god, is the president and his family safe? Just think what could have happened. One of those blades could have nicked someones nose or ear!

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Really. Is this a security risk? One that isn’t also achievable with a standard, old-fashioned RPG launcher?

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Doing a quick search, I found a $1,800 quadcopter that can fly for 20 minutes on autopilot carrying a 4.5 lb payload. That much C-4 explosive, shaped properly, could seriously damage an ordinary building and kill people inside. I would guess that the White House’s walls are reinforced to resist blast damage, and we know the windows are made of ballistic glass. Still, this is not a trivial security risk.

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You’d have to get close enough with the RPG to shoot. The road in front of the White House is closed, so you’d have to carry it. I am not sure how large an RPG launcher is, but I’m betting it would be pretty hard to conceal. Plus, you only get one shot, while you could easily launch a dozen quadcopters from 2 miles away and have them fly themselves to the White House.

I think it is. While RC controlled planes/copters are cheaper and more accessible than ever, they have been around for decades. I’d be more worried about a small piper cub loaded with explosives or even just jef fuel. And even then that is a pretty unlikely event.

I personally don’t want more laws and bullshit for pie-in-the-sky fears and crazy “what ifs”.


I’m not proposing any new laws. I’m just saying that autonomous, stable quadcopters give an attacker a lot more capability than an RC plane or helicopter, because you don’t need to control it and it’s much less likely to crash or go off course. The bottleneck is the explosive, not the delivery system. An average joe could only build a pipebomb or pressure cooker bomb, and while those are scary and make a lot of noise, they’re not high explosives.

This would be doubly awkward if it had been one of those UAVs smuggling meth from Mexico.


Are there now quiet quad copters? Seems like a simple 'person with shotgun and working ears" could mitigate the threat.


No, they’re not quiet. But they can also move at 45 mph and can be built ruggedly. Birdshot isn’t going to cut it. And you can’t assume the attack would happen while the sun is out. I’ve never heard of someone shooting anything down with a shotgun in the middle of the night.

I’d take that Pepsi challenge… though I think range is more of an issue than bird shot not being able to damage it.

I’m curious if it crashed because he lost control, or does the White House jam certain frequencies for any reason?

I also question the autonomy of any flying platform if it was being actively jammed (from things like GPS). It might could make it to it’s target based on rudimentary sensors, but without constant location updates it’s going to drift if there is any turbulence or wind. And even then in an ideal situation you are going to need to hit a specific room, which is going to be hard without precise location updates (and even GPS is going to only get you so far).

Reminds me of the Batman, The Animated Series episode Beware of The Grey Ghost.

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I’d use rubber pellets before birdshot. We don’t want stray lead. I’m not convinced there is a rugged quad copter that can withstand rubber pellets from a 12 gauge auto-loader. I’d have to see that. As far as the speed goes, shoot something moving at 45 mph that is moving laterally to your position might take a good shooter. A typical clay moves between 40 and 50 mph and is a lateral path to the shooter. People make that shot all the time. However if it is heading towards or away from you, it’s an easy shot.

I’ve hunted at night. I’ve hunted with night vision goggles as well. It’s not an issue to accurately shoot at night and quad copters are loud and large.

I’ve heard that the UAVs actually carry baby human drug mules by their cantaloupe-calves.

Am I the only one who finds it odd that this government employee was recreationally flying his drone at 3AM near the White House?


What do you mean? An African or European drone?


I think you’ve got it exactly backwards. The same flight controllers that make it possible for a copter to fly autonomously can control an RC plane. A fixed-wing can have greater speed, cargo capacity, and range compared to a copter. For example, consider the Sky Hunter, with a 3.5 kg nominal max weight, and flight times in the two-hour range (depending on how much of that weight you allocate to batteries, and how much to cargo). The main advantage of a copter is that it can hover and take off/land vertically, but none of that matters if your goal is to crash an explosive into a target.

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OMG, several pressure vessels of the type used to make biological weapons were recently spotted, smuggled in by, of all things, children!!

I really want the solution to involve large birds of prey perched on/flying over the White House, monitoring the skies, and striking dead any drones, quadcopters, mice, etc.