WASHINGTON (WJZ) — Many in Washington, D.C. are scrambling to figure out how they can improve security after a small gyrocopter lands on the West Lawn of the Capitol without ever being detected.
Derek Valcourt has more on the security breach and the questions it’s raising.
No doubt about it, almost everyone agrees–that tiny gyrocopter has exposed major weaknesses in national security.
Even before 61-year-old Doug Hughes landed his gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol, security in Washington was already a big concern.
They’ve had to deal with White House fence jumpers, including one who made it into the building.
In January, a small drone mistakenly landed on the White House lawn before it had been detected.
Homeland Security officials admit the gyrocopter literally flew under their radar.
“This is a small object. Radar wasn’t created to pick up small objects,” said Vernon Herron, University of Maryland Center for Homeland Security. “And drones are even smaller. All of these aircraft had a capacity to carry IEDs and to set them down at their intended target and cause a lot of damage.”
Herron says the latest incident raises questions about relying on current radar technology for security.
To protect the nation’s capital, the FAA established a special air defense identifications zone. It’s about 60 miles wide around the heart of the city. Pilots who want to fly inside have to obey special rules.
But then there’s an even more protected area–the flight restricted zone. It’s about 30 nautical miles wide in one of America’s most guarded airspaces.
“Most of the time what we see is people, general aviation people, accidentally getting into the area, not realizing where they were, and then having either helicopters or jets come up and intercept them,” aid Mark Rosenker, CBS News Aviation Analyst.
For now, security officials in Washington are left scrambling to find new technology to detect smaller aircraft and close this gap in security.
There is a new radar balloon system called “JLENS” that could one day help detect smaller airborne threats to the region, but that system is not yet operational.