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January 26, 2015

Operator admits flying drone at White House

First Family never in danger, authorities say

NEW DELHI/ WASHINGTON - A small drone crashed on the grounds of the White House in the early hours of Monday without endangering anyone and U.S. officials said they had identified the operator.

A person has come forward to take responsibility for flying the drone, a Secret Service spokeswoman said. The agency said the drone was being flown for recreational purposes when the person lost control and it breached the secure perimeter of the presidential mansion. 

The New York Times reported the operator was a government employee.

A White House spokesman said the device, known as a "quad copter," did not appear to be dangerous. 

Related story: Should you drone on?

The device, approximately two feet in diameter, was spotted flying at a low altitude at 3:08 a.m. EST before it crashed on the southeast side of White House grounds, Secret Service spokeswoman Nicole Mainor said in a statement.

Mainor said there was an "immediate alert and lockdown of the complex until the device was examined and cleared."

Obama is in New Delhi for three days to forge closer ties with India, part of a strategy to "rebalance" U.S. defense and trade to Asia to counter a more assertive China.

His wife, Michelle Obama, accompanied the president. Their daughters, Sasha and Malia, and their grandmother, Michelle Robinson, stayed behind.

"I don't have any reason to think at this point that the first family is in any danger," Earnest said.

U.S. regulators are working to draft new rules for commercial drones used for farming and news gathering. The small remote-controlled aircraft also have become popular as toys, raising privacy concerns and safety issues after close calls with jets.

The Secret Service also has come under scrutiny after several incidents involving White House security. Its director resigned in October, and an independent review concluded that it needs to build a better fence and hire more officers.