The crash prompted an immediate lockdown of the White House campus until officials could determine that the device didn’t pose a threat.
The Secret Service said the device was a commercially available quadcopter — a small, unmanned aircraft that is lifted by four propellers.
“An investigation is underway to determine the origin of this commercially available device, motive, and to identify suspects,” said Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary.
He said the drone crashed on the southeast side of the White House complex just after 3am. Quadcopters make up many of the small drones used by hobbyists and commercial operators. Often weighing only a few pounds (kilograms), they sell for as little as a few hundred dollars or less, and were popular Christmas gifts last year. The president and first lady Michelle Obama are travelling in India.
But it was unclear whether their daughters, Sasha and Malia, were at home at the time of the incident with their grandmother, Marian Robinson, who also lives at the White House.
The White House had said before the president’s trip that the daughters would remain in Washington so as not to miss school.