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Monday, April 6, 2015

Justice Department Will Not Prosecute UAV Pilot for White House Breach

By Ernie Stephens, Editor-at-Large

In an official statement released on March 18, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it will not prosecute a Washington, DC man for allowing the rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) - commonly called a “drone” - he was operating to fly onto the grounds of the White House on Jan. 26, 2015.

The decision was made following an investigation by the Secret Service, which discovered that the unidentified man had been flying the small, borrowed aircraft from the balcony of his residence several blocks away.

At approximately 3:00 a.m., the radio signal between the handheld transmitter and the UAV’s receiver was lost, causing the unit to fly away uncontrolled. Assuming the aircraft would run out of battery power soon and eventually crash, the operator went to bed. When he heard on the morning news that an investigation had been launched into the crash of a UAV on the White House lawn, he immediately contacted authorities and explained his involvement.

Once a forensic examination confirmed that the UAV was not under anyone’s control when it breached the perimeter of the White House grounds, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr. decided not to pursue criminal charges.

Although the incident is the first of its kind reported in P-56 (the prohibited airspace surrounding the White House and other sensitive government buildings in the area), it is one of many reports of UAV encroachments nationwide being scrutinized by the FAA in its efforts to regulate the aircrafts’ booming popularity with hobbyist, aerial photography companies, the movie industry and other businesses.

Machen’s official release states that the FAA, which is not bound by the decision of the Justice Department, continues to review the incident for what he described as “possible administrative action.” ­

Related: Unmanned News

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