Category Archives: Drone

Flights diverted at airport as drone sighted over runway

Flights diverted at airport as drone sighted over runway

Manchester airport suspended flights on one of its runways for 20 minutes after members of the public reported spotting a drone

An airport diverted flights and suspended one runway after a drone was sighted flying nearby.

Manchester airport halted operations on its Runway One to allow police to investigate the sighting, a spokesman said.

UAV UAS drone small

The runway was suspended for around 20 minutes and four inbound flights were diverted to nearby Liverpool and East Midlands airports.

The growth in civilian drone technology in recent years has led to concerns over how the new remotely-controlled aircraft may interfere with other aircraft.

A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “Due to a report of a potential drone sighting in airspace near to the airport, some flights have experienced short delays and a small number of flights have diverted to alternative airports whilst Greater Manchester Police carried out an investigation using their Police Helicopter. Upon inspection, nothing was found.

“As the safety and security of all of our passengers is paramount, operations on Runway One were suspended for 20 minutes. Runway Two, which was unaffected, will remain open for an hour so normal traffic flows can resume.”

John Mayhew, air traffic control company Nats’ general manager at Manchester Airport, said: “Flying drones in the close vicinity to any airport without permission is completely unacceptable, with the reported sighting causing delays to inbound and outbound traffic and the diversion of a small number aircraft to other airports.

“The matter has now been referred to the police.”

The UK board investigating aircraft near misses last December described how a device believed to be a small radio-controlled helicopter drone came within 20ft of an incoming Airbus A320 passenger plane at Heathrow airport.

The Airbus was 700ft from landing when the pilot reported seeing a small black object to the left of the aircraft, the report said.

Amazon tests delivery drones at secret Canada site after US frustration

Amazon tests delivery drones at secret Canada site after US frustration

Amazon Canada drones site
Amazon employees look to the skies at the company’s secret Canadian drones site somewhere in British Columbia, only 2,000ft from the US border. Photograph: Ed Pilkington/the Guardian

Amazon is testing its drone delivery service at a secret site in Canada, following repeated warnings by the e-commerce giant that it would go outside the US to bypass what it sees as the US federal government’s lethargic approach to the new technology.

The largest internet retailer in the world is keeping the location of its new test site closely guarded. What can be revealed is that the company’s formidable team of roboticists, software engineers, aeronautics experts and pioneers in remote sensing – including a former Nasa astronaut and the designer of the wingtip of the Boeing 787 – are now operating in British Columbia.

The end goal is to utilise what Amazon sees as a slice of virgin airspace – above 200ft, where most buildings end, and below 500ft, where general aviation begins. Into that aerial slice the company plans to pour highly autonomous drones of less than 55lbs, flying through corridors 10 miles or longer at 50mph and carrying payloads of up to 5lbs that account for 86% of all the company’s packages.

Amazon has acquired a plot of open land lined by oak trees and firs, where it is conducting frequent experimental flights with the full blessing of the Canadian government. As if to underline the significance of the move, the test site is barely 2,000ft from the US border, which was clearly visible from where the Guardian stood on a recent visit.

The Guardian was invited to visit Amazon’s previously undisclosed Canadian drone test site, where it has been conducting outdoor flights for the past few months. For the duration of the visit, three plain-clothed security guards kept watch from the surrounding hills.

Amazon’s drone visionaries are taking the permissive culture on the Canadian side of the border and using it to fine-tune the essential features of what they hope will become a successful delivery-by-drone system. The Guardian witnessed tests of a hybrid drone that can take off and land vertically as well as fly horizontally.

The company’s decision to set up camp in Canada, after frustration in its attempts to persuade US regulators to allow it to launch its drones in Washington state, takes Amazon’s quarrel with the federal government to a new level. Last week a senior Amazon executive appeared before a US Senate subcommittee and warned that there would be consequences if federal regulators continued to act as a drag on its ambitions to launch a drone delivery service called Prime Air.

What Paul Misener, the company’s vice-president for global public policy, did not tell senators was that at the very moment he appeared before them, Amazon drones were buzzing in the skies just north of the border.

The company wants to offer its customers the ability to have packages dropped on their doorstep by flying robots within 30 minutes of ordering goods online. With innovation in the drone sector reaching lightning speeds, Amazon said it was not prepared to curtail its ambitions because of what Misener said was a lack of “impetus” on the US side of the border.

“We think that this new technology will provide huge benefits for our customers, who we think will love it, and for society more broadly,” he told the Guardian a day after the subcommittee hearing. “Why would we wait?”

Gur Kimchi, the architect and head of Prime Air, said the hope had always been to develop the drone service in the US, close to the company’s Seattle headquarters. “But we’re limited there to flying indoors and have been now for a very long time. So we do what’s necessary – we go to places where we can test outside, in this case Canada.”

Drone technology is seen by many tech companies and aeronautics experts as the next frontier for innovation, with billions of dollars potentially in the balance. Traditionally, the US has been at the vanguard of both tech and aviation innovation, but the approach of the the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), a US regulatory body, has been markedly tentative so far compared with that of regulators in Canada and Europe.

Brendan Schulman, a New York-based specialist in drone law, said the Guardian’s disclosure of Amazon’s Canadian airstrip-in-exile should be a “serious wake-up call to politicians and regulators”.

“America has led the world in aviation development,” he said, “but for the first time in history we are at risk of losing out. To see one of our most innovative companies forced over the border is a stark example of the danger.”

Until it opened its Canadian base, Amazon had been limited to indoor testing in its Seattle laboratory, backed up with research outposts in the UK – in Cambridge – and Israel. Requests by the company to begin outdoor testing on company land in Washington state have so far largely been rebuffed by the FAA.

The federal agency recently published its guidelines for commercial use of small drones. The new rules will take at least two years to come into effect, a delay which Amazon finds unacceptable.

Last July, the company applied for a so-called 333 exemption that would allow it to carry out outdoor experimentation immediately. Eight months later, the FAA has not responded.

The federal body did agree last week, amid considerable fanfare, to award the company a so-called “experimental airworthiness certificate” that can be used to test a specific model of drone. But it took so long for the certificate to come through that by the time it was granted, Amazon said it was obsolete.

“The pace of innovation is so great at this point that our designs are changing very quickly,” Misener told the Guardian.

The contrast between the relative rigidity of the FAA’s approach to drone testing and the relatively relaxed regulatory regime in Canada is startling. Under the Canadian system, Amazon has been granted a virtual carte blanche regarding its entire fleet of drones within its designated airspace, having gone through a licensing process that took just three weeks.

By comparison, it takes the FAA many months to grant approval. Sources familiar with the process told the Guardian the US regulator insists on an initial 23-page application, a review of 75 pages of further documentation and a four-hour presentation at FAA headquarters followed by a three-hour site visit, together with ongoing reporting and record-keeping obligations.

Early experiments in Canada have focused on a range of individual drone capabilities: sensors that can detect and avoid obstacles in a drone’s path; link-loss procedures that control the aircraft should its connection with base be broken; stability in wind and turbulence; and environmental impact. Once each of these facets has been perfected, a new Amazon prototype drone will be assembled that Kimchi predicted would be utterly safe and wholly unlike anything seen before.

“We are going to end up with unique shapes, unique vehicles. The most important part is to develop strong confidence that our system is safe and that we can demonstrate that to customers,” he said.

“You can build a very different world. It can be faster, and safer, and more economic and more environmentally friendly – all of those things, all at the same time.”

FAA – a uniquely difficult job?
Amazon drone
A now outdated iteration of an Amazon domestic delivery drone. The company keeps its new models strictly under wraps. Photograph: Amazon/EPA

The FAA argues that the US has a uniquely difficult job in safeguarding the nation’s skies. It emphasises that it is responsible for the largest, most complex airspace in the world, which, unlike other countries’, is used by a large general aviation fleet.

“Different laws and regulatory structures in other nations may allow them to act more quickly to approve certain UAS [drone] operations,” an FAA spokesman told the Guardian. “Everything we do is safety-oriented, and we base our approvals for unmanned aircraft operations on an assessment of the risks to other aircraft and to people and property on the ground. We have been working diligently with Amazon to get the information we need.”

Misener said he respected the FAA’s desire to keep America’s airspace as safe as possible. “That’s our top priority in Amazon Prime Air too,” he said.

But he questioned the FAA’s portrayal of America’s unique position: “The US does have a complex airspace, but it’s no more complex than in Europe, where regulators do allow testing, and it’s certainly not complex beneath 500ft or in rural areas of Washington state where we had planned to operate.”

The numbers speak for themselves. The FAA has received more than 750 requests for outdoor drone testing licenses from American businesses, Amazon’s among them, but so far has granted just 48. Canada’s equivalent civil aviation authority, Transport Canada, released 1,672 commercial drone certificates last year alone.

Diana Cooper, head of drones and robotics at the Canadian law firm Labarge Weinstein, said that in recent months several US companies had contacted her to inquire about opportunities in her country – a phenomenon that she believes will be boosted further by Amazon’s decision to join the fold.

“Amazon will definitely be a trendsetter,” she said, “and will result in a lot of other large American companies like Google and Facebook looking at our market as well.”

Another battle is already on the horizon. The FAA has stated bluntly it does not believe that drones can be flown safely under their own autonomous control, and is insisting that humans must keep them within eyesight at all times. That is a deal-breaker for Amazon Prime Air, which could only function if drones were able to fly well beyond visual line of sight.

Here too, the contrast between the uncertainty of the US regulators and the can-do attitude of their Canadian and European equivalents is striking. A huge area of Alberta covering 700 square nautical miles of restricted airspace has already been set aside to allow for drones to be tested beyond visual line of sight. In Europe a similar facility is being opened in Wales.

Misener believes that with such opportunities exploding beyond US borders, it is only a matter of time before the FAA is forced to accept that drones are here to stay.

“This technology is going to work,” he said. “It’s coming.”

Amazon Slams FAA Drone Policy, Says Delays Hurt US UAV Industry

Amazon Slams FAA Drone Policy, Says Delays Hurt US UAV Industry


Drone flight
An Amazon representative said this week that by the time the FAA approved the company’s drone test, the prototype was outdated.

Amazon has accused the federal government of being too slow to create an effective commercial drone testing policy. While the Federal Aviation Administration has given Amazon permission to test its delivery drone program, the e-commerce giant warned that the U.S. is allowing other nations to get a head start on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

It was exactly the FAA’s approval, though, that seemed to raise Amazon’s ire. Paul Misener, the company’s vice president for global public policy, told a Senate subcommittee that the prototype went out of date during the six months the company waited for permission.

“We don’t test it anymore. We’ve moved on to more advanced designs that we already are testing abroad,” Misener said in written testimony issued to the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security. “Nowhere outside of the United States have we been required to wait more than one or two months to begin testing.”

The FAA has proposed a set of rules that would permit a variety of commercial drone flights. Yet Amazon’s intention to launch a fleet of package delivery drones was all but shot down by the stipulations that pilots keep drones within their line of sight and don’t fly their craft higher than 500 feet.

Misener didn’t go so far as to ask Congress to create legislation to trump the FAA rules, but U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., plans to introduce a bill, the Commercial UAV Modernization Act, that could give businesses more leeway until the FAA finalizes its drone rules, Forbes reported. Initial reports suggest the bill would authorize pilots who have passed a “knowledge test” to fly drones during daylight and under the FAA’s altitude limit.

Secret Service testing drones, how to disrupt their flying

Secret Service testing drones, how to disrupt their flying


Secret Service Drones

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mysterious, middle-of-the-night drone flights by the U.S. Secret Service during the next several weeks over parts of Washington — usually off-limits as a strict no-fly zone — are part of secret government testing intended to find ways to interfere with rogue drones or knock them out of the sky, The Associated Press has learned.

A U.S. official briefed on the plans said the Secret Service was testing drones for law enforcement or protection efforts and to look for ways, such as signal jamming, to thwart threats from civilian drones. The drones were being flown between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to publicly discuss the plans. The Secret Service has said details were classified.

Some consumer-level drones, which commonly carry video cameras, are powerful enough to carry small amounts of explosives or a grenade.

The challenge for the Secret Service is quickly detecting a rogue drone flying near the White House or the president’s location, then within moments either hacking it to seize control over its flight or jamming its signal to send it off course or make it crash.

The Secret Service has said only that it will openly test drones over Washington, but it declined to provide details such as when it will fly, how many drones, over what parts of the city, for how long and for what purposes. It decided to tell the public in advance about the tests out of concern that people who saw the drones might be alarmed, particularly in the wake of the drones spotted recently over Paris at night. Flying overnight also diminishes the chances that radio jamming would accidentally affect nearby businesses, drivers, pedestrians and tourists.

It is illegal under the U.S. Communications Act to sell or use signal jammers except for narrow purposes by government agencies.

Depending on a drone’s manufacturer and capabilities, its flight-control and video-broadcasting systems commonly use the same common radio frequencies as popular Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies. Jamming by the Secret Service — depending on how powerfully or precisely it works — could disrupt nearby Internet networks or phone conversations until it’s turned off. Testing in the real-world environment around the White House would reveal unexpected effects on jamming efforts from nearby buildings, monuments or tall trees.

Signals emanating from an inbound drone — such as coming from a video stream back to its pilot — could allow the Secret Service to detect and track it.

Federal agencies generally need approval to jam signals from the U.S. telecommunications advisory agency, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. That agency declined to tell the AP whether the Secret Service sought permission because it said such requests are not routinely made public.

The Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed it formally authorized the Secret Service to fly the drones and granted it a special waiver to fly them over Washington. The agency declined to provide specifics about the secret program.

In January, a wayward quadcopter drone, piloted by an off-duty U.S. intelligence employee, landed on the White House lawn. At the time, the Secret Service said the errant landing appeared to be accidental and was not considered a security threat.

The agency had been looking at security issues surrounding drones before the January crash, but the crash of that drone led the agency to focus more attention on security issues surrounding small, unmanned aircraft that can be hard to detect. Previously published reports have disclosed that the Secret Service already uses jammers in presidential and vice presidential motorcades to disrupt signals that might detonate hidden remotely triggered improvised explosive devices.

Researchers with the Homeland Security Department’s science and technology directorate are working on strategies to interdict an unauthorized drone flying inside security areas. The research arm of DHS is trying to balance security concerns of the small, hard-to-detect devices, with the burgeoning commercial use and interests of hobbyists. Likewise, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said last week it’s studying how the U.S. can resolve privacy risks with increasing use of drones.

The Homeland Security Department hosted a two-day meeting last month with industry officials, law enforcement and academics to discuss balancing security and commercial interests and establishing security practices. Days later, the Secret Service, which is part of the Homeland Security Department, distributed a three-sentence press release saying it will “conduct a series of exercises involving unmanned aircraft systems, in the coming days and weeks.”

Trying to keep drones out of a secure area can be tricky.

There are basically three ways to stop a drone, said Jeremy Gillula, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation: block the radio signals linking the drone to its controller, hack the aircraft’s control signals and trick it into believing it is somewhere else, or physically disable it.

Some drone manufacturers program a “geo fence” — location coordinates their drones treat as off-limits and refuse to fly past — into the drone’s programming. Police could physically knock a drone out of the air with a projectile or use a net to catch it.

“If it were me that would actually be the first thing I would think about doing,” Gillula said. “You would have to basically encase the White House in this net. It sure wouldn’t look pretty, but in some ways it would be the most effective way.”

Secret Service To Conduct Drone Exercises Over Washington

Secret Service To Conduct Drone Exercises Over Washington

By Josh Lederman, Associated Press

Predator Reaper UAV drone
Predator Reaper UAV (drone)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Secret Service says it will fly drones over the Washington area in the near future.

The agency isn’t disclosing exactly where the exercises will take place other than that they’ll involve areas where flights are typically restricted. Airspace above the White House, the U.S. Capitol and other sensitive sites in Washington is heavily restricted.

The Secret Service says the exercises have been carefully planned and coordinated with other government agencies, and will be “tightly controlled.”

The reason for the exercises isn’t clear. But they come amid heightened scrutiny about the security risks posed by drones. Last month, a government employee who was flying a drone recreationally crashed it into the White House grounds accidentally.

The Obama administration recently proposed long-awaited rules for flying commercial drones in U.S. skies.

New FAA Rules For Drones Include A Pilot Test

New FAA Rules For Drones Include A Pilot Test

Even as it ignores recreational drones, the FAA has finally proposed some rules for the commercial swarm—including a basic piloting test.

Six weeks later than it had promised, the Federal Aviation Administration has finally faced up to the problem of regulating the flight of small drones in U.S airspace.But wait.The proposed rules will do nothing to restrain or control the escalating swarm of recreational drones, many of which have been merrily zooming around close to the flight paths of commercial airliners –—or, in one well-hyped example, crash-landing in a tree close to the White House.

“Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx as he announced the proposals—sounding a bit like a man who has woken up with surprise to find that we are actually into the second decade of the 21st century—“and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation.”

The regulations will apply to drones weighing less than 55 pounds. The interests involved in using drones commercially have been stamping feet and shouting with frustration over the years it has taken the FAA to draw up the rules. There is a whole industry-in-waiting, reckoned to be worth billions of dollars, that spans many activities ranging from oil exploration, agriculture, archaeology, news gathering and real estate development—where cameras aboard drones will, literally, bring new eyes.

Some parts of the proposed regime are much as expected: commercial drones will not be allowed to operate at night; they must always remain in sight of the operator; go no higher than 500 feet and no faster than 100 mph.

An operator would have to pass an aeronautical knowledge test.

But the interesting bit is not about the drone itself but about who gets to fly it and how they qualify to do so. The agency is introducing a kind of Drones 101—an operator would have to pass an aeronautical knowledge test in order to be certified able to fly. There are no details yet of what this might involve.

To make any sense the test would have to assure competence in flying skills—like understanding up from down, three-dimensional awareness and acuity and, hopefully, what damage might be done by a 50-pound object impacting a soft-skinned being at 100mph. There is actually a proposed rule for that—the drones “may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.” In fact, that’s a pretty restrictive rule, depending on how you define “over” and distinguish it from “near.”

In Europe the rules for operating similar drones are tougher—flying skills are assessed much like they are for a private pilot’s license, and the drones themselves have to meet design safety standards. The FAA, being realistic, isn’t proposing an equivalent of the airworthiness certification process for airplanes that can take years.

What about those swarms of “recreational” drones, mostly in the form of what are called quadcopters? There is no proficiency test for flying them and they are subject only to the rules for flying model airplanes—not to fly above 400 feet, within five miles of an airport or near crowds, and always remain in sight of the “pilot.”

The reality for commercial drones is a lot tougher. Until the new regulations come into effect after an appeals process and rule-making revisions, which could take years, the use of commercial drones will continue to be permitted only on a case-by-case basis through applications to the FAA.

Some of idea of how glacially this system works is given by the numbers: There are at present 342 applications pending to use commercial drones (in technical jargon “petitions”); 20 have so far been granted and 16 have been closed because the applicants failed to respond to requests from the agency for more information.

There is no doubt about the best place to be if you want free reign to fly a commercial drone: North Dakota. A week ago the FAA greatly expanded the airspace available for research flights by commercial drones there and said that it soon expects to clear as much of two-thirds of the state’s skies for drones. Go north, young man—far, far, far north.

FAA to unveil small-drone rules

FAA to unveil small-drone rules


small drone UAV farm agriculture FAA

The FAA on Sunday will finally announce long-awaited rules that for the first time would set the stage for widespread legal commercial use of small drones in the U.S.

The proposal, set to be announced at 10 a.m., is not expected to allow drones to bear external weight — which means that for the time being it would block Amazon’s and Google’s dreams of using drones to deliver packages. But it still would break new ground by allowing legal use of unmanned aircraft by businesses including filmmakers, farmers, smokestack inspectors and wedding photographers.
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The proposed rules would apply to drones weighing less than 55 pounds and are expected to include a number of restrictions. Drones wouldn’t be allowed to fly between sunset and sunrise. They would also need be operated by commercial pilots, who would have to pass an aeronautical test of some type but wouldn’t be required to have experience flying manned aircraft.

For now, the FAA has banned almost all commercial use of drones and has sporadically sent cease-and-desist letters to drone operators, although defiance is widespread. The GAO said last year that it now doesn’t expect final rules until 2017.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will speak on a press call Sunday announcing the rules.

Obama administration denied Predator drone request for Jordan, rep urges reversal

Obama administration denied Predator drone request for Jordan, rep urges reversal


The State Department denied a request last year to potentially send unarmed Predator drones to Jordan arguing that the kingdom was not a strong enough ally, according to a U.S. congressman who is now urging the administration to reverse the decision as Jordan escalates its fight against the Islamic State.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., fired off a letter to President Obama saying it is “absolutely critical” that the U.S. provides Jordan what it needs to fight ISIS, echoing a bipartisan call on Capitol Hill. Jordan’s King Abdullah II visited Washington earlier this week, just as a video was released showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive by ISIS.

According to U.S. lawmakers who met with him, Abdullah appealed for more support in getting everything from ammunition to night-vision equipment, as Jordan takes the war to ISIS.

Hunter said in his letter that the surveillance drones, too, are “much needed for a nation such as Jordan” and would give the country “critical mission capability in the fight against the Islamic State.”

He claimed that the administration had denied a license request for unarmed Predator XP drone systems. According to a Hunter aide, the State Department denied the request from the manufacturer last fall, effectively arguing that Jordan was not a strong enough ally to receive the technology, under U.S. export control laws.

A license would be needed because such drones fall under what’s known as the Missile Technology Control Regime. The license in question technically was a marketing license which would let the manufacturer start talks on potential sales.

The congressional aide said Jordan still wants the drones, as they would help with their escalating operations.

“With the stroke of a pen, somebody could fix this,” the aide said.

In his letter, Hunter called for the license denial to be “reversed immediately.”

The drones are made by General Atomics, which is headquartered near Hunter’s southern California district. According to a 2013 report, the company planned to sell the drones to the United Arab Emirates and other Middle East countries.

Asked about the license request, a State Department official said they are restricted from discussing such “internal deliberations.” But the official said “Jordan is an invaluable ally with whom we coordinate closely on a range of issues throughout the region.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are urging the administration to speed up the delivery of other military aid to Jordan on the heels of its pilot’s execution.

All members of the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote to the heads of the State and Defense departments earlier this week making that appeal. The U.S. is already giving Jordan $1 billion in economic and military aid this year, and has signed an agreement with Jordan boosting security assistance by up to $400 million a year through 2017.

The State Department official noted Jordan is one of the biggest recipients of U.S. security assistance. “We continue to make every effort to expedite security assistance to Jordan,” the official said. “The State Department is acting promptly on Jordanian requests for military capabilities, in partnership with the Department of Defense. Jordan remains a pillar of regional security and continues to make critical contributions to the global coalition to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.”

Asked Thursday about the calls to give Jordan more assistance, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also said the U.S. is “committed to ensuring that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in Jordan at this very serious time.”

He added: “And if that means ensuring that they are getting the security assistance that were promised, they can count on the president of the United States being a strong advocate for making sure that they get that assistance that they need.”

Jordan is charging ahead with a new round of airstrikes in retaliation for the murder of their pilot.

A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News that “two dozen” Jordanian F-16s, roughly half the number in their inventory, completed a strike in Syria on Friday against “ISIS facilities.”

The Jordanians were supported by U.S. fighter jets and other assets.

The location of the strike in Syria was not disclosed. All aircraft returned safely, and more strikes are expected in the near future.

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel, Lucas Tomlinson and Ed Henry contributed to this report.

Man Lost Contact With Drone Before It Sped to White House, Friend Says

Man Lost Contact With Drone Before It Sped to White House, Friend Says


UAV UAS drone small

WASHINGTON — In retrospect, flying the drone out the apartment window at 3 a.m. might not have been the best idea.

The young man who was operating the drone that crashed onto the White House lawn early Monday had been playing with the $500 device in his living room when he decided to open the window and fly it around outside, according to a friend who is familiar with the events.

Standing in his living room, less than a mile from the White House, the man used a remote control to guide the red-and-white plastic “quadcopter” back into the apartment through the window, and then back out again.

The man had done some drinking during a dinner date that night, the friend said, but he was not drunk. It was not until he guided the drone out the window again — perhaps 100 feet or so from the apartment — that something went wrong.

Suddenly, the man, who has not been identified by the authorities, lost contact with the drone, according to the friend. It hovered for a couple of minutes, not taking direction from the controller. And then it shot up, rising hundreds of feet into the night sky before taking off at a high speed, due east.

drone lands white house secret service photo image pic
A drone that crashed on the grounds of the White House had evaded radar detection.

“The whole thing just spiraled out of control when he lost contact,” said the friend, who asked not to be identified because of the legal issues involved.

Still in his living room, the man frantically called his friend, from whom he had borrowed the drone. “It’s gone,” he said. The two men agreed that there was nothing they could do in the middle of the night, and they went to sleep.

At 8 the next morning, the man called his friend again. “Turn on the news,” he said. The two watched as Secret Service officers combed the White House lawn, securing the grounds against any potential threats.

The friend acknowledged that the man should not have been flying the drone out the window; it is illegal to fly a drone outside in the District of Columbia. But he said that much of the blame belonged to the drone itself, a DJI Phantom, which he said has a history of losing contact with its operator.

An Internet search returns many examples of customers’ complaining of a similar problem. There are YouTube videos showing the drones suddenly flying away from their operators. A Facebook page titled “DJI Flyaway & Crash Psychological Support Page” has more than 2,400 “likes” on the main page.

Michael Perry, a spokesman for the company, said their drones have safety features to prevent such episodes. But he said that the system needed to be calibrated by the user and that operating rules needed to be followed.

“Without knowing the details of this case, this reads like the pilot failed to accurately calibrate the system before take off,” Mr. Perry said. “The lack of safe practices associated with it — flying in a city, out of visual line if sight, at night, drinking, in an area where flying is restricted — demonstrates the need for better education of new pilots.”

In videos posted online, company officials say that many similar problems are the result of operator error, and that newer models of the drone have better technology to prevent such things from happening.

Law enforcement officials said the young man told the Secret Service a similar story about losing contact with the drone while operating it from inside his apartment. The officials said the Secret Service was planning to reach out to the company to investigate the claim.

The man, who works at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, has retained a lawyer, his friend said. But the friend said the man was sorry about the entire episode.

“In my opinion, the decisive factor was this flyaway, which is a well-documented flaw,” the friend said.