Dramatic warning on drones

This handout photo provided by the US Secret Service shows the drone that crashed onto the White House grounds in Washington, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/US Secret Service)

The drone that crashed outside the White House on Monday should serve as a warning to federal officials about the need for better safeguards related to their use. The situation demonstrated how easily small drones can penetrate security.

Apparently, the drone in question strayed into the White House air space inadvertently. The remote-controlled aircraft didn’t show up on radar as it came in and was snagged in a tree on the White House lawn. Washington, D.C., incidentally, is off limits to drones.

A Federal Aviation Administration report released in November cited 25 near misses by drones with manned aircraft over the previous six months. Some occurred in air space off limits to drone traffic. Several incidents required diversionary maneuvers by aircraft pilots.

Like the White House incident, they were all deemed accidental.

But that would be of small consolation if a collision had caused, say, the crash of a passenger plane.

Of course, the White House incident raises the possibility of more sinister uses of drones.

Congress should continue to push for expedited rules governing drone use, and penalties for violations. With an estimated 500,000 drones already in service, it can’t happen too soon.

And the FAA and Secret Service should get together on improving security at potential high-risk targets — such as the White House.