Shawn Usman, the man who crashed a drone on the White House grounds on Jan. 26, will not be criminally charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, federal prosecutors said today.
The 31-year-old Usman lost control of a Phantom FC40 drone owned by a friend early that morning, and telephoned his employers and the Secret Service to report the incident when he learned the small model aircraft had been found on the White House grounds.
Until today, it was unclear whether Usman, a scientist at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, would face charges in the wake of the incident. The NGA has confirmed he remains an employee of the agency, and he retains his security clearance. The Federal Aviation Administration has begun a review of the incident for possible administrative action, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.
James M. Garland, a lawyer for Usman, says his client is “pleased and grateful” that the U.S. Attorney declined to pursue charges. While the incident was “unfortunate and understandably alarming,” Garland says, it was “totally inadvertent and completely unintentional.” He says his client wishes to express “sincere apologies” to anyone affected by the drone crash, and that Usman will continue his full cooperation with the government as the FAA conducts its review. The FAA could potentially propose a civil penalty of up to $1,100.
The incident, which made headlines across the world, is emblematic of the newfound pervasiveness of drone technology. But stories reporting that Usman was inebriated or attempting to impress a date also suggest that the media can still be inclined to treat drones like punchlines.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com