The owner of a small drone that crashed at the White House says his friend, the embarrassed operator who experienced the snafu, wants to apologize to President Barack Obama and the First Family.
Still unnamed by authorities, the flyer of the DJI Phantom quadcopter, who is also a U.S. intelligence agency employee, is declining comment. The drone’s owner only spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity for himself and his friend, the drone’s operator.
The drone owner, who let his friend borrow the quadcopter, was not at his friend’s Washington, D.C. apartment when the incident occurred. But he offered a recap of the incident in an interview with CNN. This is a condensed version of that conversation:
So what would the operator of the drone like to say?
“He’s not in a position to speak… I know that he’s very remorseful. He understands that he made a mistake. And he would like to extend his sincere apology to everyone involved, especially the president and his family.”
What happened that night?
“He just wanted to have a short flight around his apartment… (name of flyer) is a scientist. He likes to tinker with things so he’s real interested in this drone. He’s experimenting with it. And he thought he wanted to see what would happen if he could take it out the window and bring it back.”
“First he wanted to fly it around his living room, just experimenting with the flight controls. And thought it might be interesting just to see what would happen to go out, just outside the window and bring it back. And after doing that the disconnect happened. And at that point, he’s no longer in control. And unfortunately the drone proceeded to try to get back to its home location. And on the way there, I think, it ended up unfortunately in the White House. Probably when the battery died en route.”
What about the drinking?
“Honestly, (name of flyer) had been out on a date earlier in the night. By this point (3 a.m. EST Monday) alcohol was not a factor. He had been back at his place for a while.”
It’s a mystery?
“It’s a very new technology and a lot of these aspects have not been ironed out completely. And I think unfortunately this incident has brought that to the limelight.”
It could have been a malfunction?
“From what the operator has told me, it matches exactly the descriptions online – that many other people have told about flyaway incidents.”
“The situation ultimately I think was the result of flaws in the software, in the DJI drone’s coupled with an unfortunate decision to fly. And also a dose of bad luck that the DJI trajectory, which it decided to embark upon, happened to cross the White House. I think all these three things together were a perfect storm. And unfortunately there’s nothing now the operator can do to take it back. If he could he would.”
“He sincerely understands that he made a mistake. And so he’s very apologetic for everything.”
Why does he not want to talk?
“As an intelligence agency employee, he’s not in a position to speak to the public. And this is the reason he hasn’t put out any statements. However, I’ve been close to him this past week and I can see that he’s remorseful, regretful. He understands he made a mistake. He wishes he would take it back.”
He didn’t mean to do this?
“He didn’t have intentions for this to happen the way it did. He understands now that more responsibility is required being around these drones. They’re sophisticated machines.”
Now he knows?
“He never realized that something like this could happen. And now that it’s happened he realized he’s made a grave mistake.”
He’s hoping others will learn from this?
“If there’s something positive comes out of this it will be for people to understand that they have to have a greater awareness around these and a greater understanding of the laws that are applied to flying drones, not just around DC but around all sensitive places.”