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Security scare: Drone flying close to White House prompts lockdown

The White House was locked down briefly Thursday afternoon after a drone was spotted about 100 feet in the air in nearby Lafayette Square.

The operator of the multi-blade remotely controlled copter was quickly located by Secret Service agents who ordered the man to bring his flying machine back to the ground. Members of the U.S. Park Police then took him into custody.

It’s not currently known why the individual was flying the unmanned aerial vehicle in such a sensitive area – drone flights are banned not only around the White House but in the whole of Washington, DC – although an initial inspection showed the copter to be harmless. President Obama was not in the White House at the time of the incident.

A Washington Post report said the drone was spotted close to Pennsylvania Avenue, which runs right by the president’s official residence, at around 1pm on Thursday. Roads were closed and the White House was temporarily locked down as investigators sought to locate the owner of the flying machine, believed to be a Parrot Bebop. The $500 Bebop proved a hit with DT reviewer Drew Prindle recently when he took the device out for a test fly – check out his in-depth review here.

Thursday’s incident comes four months after another drone operator accidentally sent his machine crashing onto the lawn of the White House, evading detection and embarrassing security officials in the process.

The flier turned out to be an inebriated intelligence agency worker who in the early hours had decided to attempt a fly-by of the iconic building. Security at the White House came under scrutiny following the incident and officials are now looking into how it can better protect the location from incoming drones.

Recent reports indicate the Secret Service has been carrying out late-night tests of detection and signal-jamming equipment in no-fly zones in an effort to beef up White House security against autonomous and remotely controlled flying machines.