DC company's technology provides warning system to detect drones

The Secret Service says it is keeping secret the name of the man who crashed a drone onto the White House grounds on Monday.

The case is in the hands of the attorney general of the District of Columbia who may or may not file criminal charges.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are saying the Secret Service needs a better early warning system for what they call too small for conventional aircraft radar.

But we found out that technology already exists. It was the brainchild of former government defense and intelligence officials.

They say the growing use of drones has created a growing demand for a guard dog of sorts to warn people about their approach. Designers say this is the same type of technology that could have alerted the Secret Service before that drone crashed on the White House lawn.

You could say Brian Hearing knows a lot about drones. In fact, he even has a PhD in them.

Hearing's company, DroneShield, is a D.C.-based firm whose sole business is spotting drones before they spot you.

"We started this to protect your privacy basically," he said. "Know if your neighbor was using this to spy on you."

But since a drone crashed onto the White House lawn Monday, drones have quickly moved from curiosity to concern for security officials in Washington.

"The tree was the only thing that stopped this from hitting the White House," said Hearing. "I don't believe they had a response that would have been able to respond in time."

The company says it has been contacted by prisons, nuclear plants and celebrities -- all looking to stay one step ahead of prying eyes in the sky.

The Secret Service said they only became aware of that drone when one of their officers heard and observed it. Now, that is a problem because security experts will tell you from an early warning standpoint, that information is too little, too late.

How does DroneShield work? John Franklin says special microphones are able to pick a drone's sound pattern long before it is in sight.

"When one of these things detects a drone, you would see an alert issued for the appropriate node in the security system," said Franklin.

The man who crashed the drone on Monday is a worker at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). He told Secret Service he had been flying the drone for fun, had been drinking and lost control of it over the White House.

In a release, NGA insists the man was not on duty or involved in work related to NGA drones. But questions persist and DroneShield's creators say their device could have helped.

"They have onsite officers with shotguns that could have taken this down, whereas here, they had to rely on it crashing into a tree before something happened to it," said Hearing.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been slow to issue new rules on where drones can and can't fly. But once they do, Drone Shield's inventors say they expect massive growth in both drone flight and the need to detect them.

We spoke to the Secret Service again on Wednesday and they are holding firm to their position that they will not release the name of the man responsible for Monday's drone crash.

The spokesperson said that information will come from the attorney general of the District of Columbia if and when charges are actually filed.

The Secret Service does have the power to charge someone on its own. However, in this case, it was determined to hand the case over to the attorney general's office to determine if charges are warranted.