The Secret Service will be test-flying a fleet of drones in Washington, D.C. in the “coming days and weeks,” it said on Tuesday. But, the agency did not elaborate on why it was testing the “unmanned aircraft systems.”
The new drones are likely meant to protect the White House from unauthorized Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), according to Ars Technica, following an incident last month where a government employee crashed a helicopter drone on the lawn of the White House. The Secret Service said it's coordinating its efforts with other agencies because the tests will be conducted in no-fly zones.
Following the incident at the White House, the Department of Homeland Security has been conducting tests on how to respond to scenarios where toy drones are modified to carry remote weapons or explosives, according to Wired. The manufacturer of the drone that crashed at the White House introduced a software update to restrict its products from flying into restricted airspaces, like the one surrounding the White House, but later pulled back the update for introducing a number of bugs, according to The Verge.
The Federal Aviation Administration has said it hopes to continue allowing small consumer drones to operate under model-aircraft rules, with stricter restrictions on commercial UAVs.
The White House incident was not the first time a model drone had a close call with a world leader. In 2013, a drone crashed within a few feet of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière at a protest rally in Germany.