WASHINGTON - The pilot of a unmanned commercial drone that crashed at the White House and sparked a security alert works for the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, officials have revealed.

The agency - which provides vital imagery and analysis for US military and civilian intelligence agencies - said one of its staff members had been questioned by the Secret Service.

“The employee was off duty and is not involved in work related to drones or unmanned aerial vehicles in any capacity at NGA,” the agency said.

The DJI Phantom “quadcopter” that crashed into the White House grounds in the early hours of Monday is most commonly used by professional and amateur photographers to capture aerial video.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency said its employee had turned themselves in and “was using a personal item while off duty.” “The agency takes the incident very seriously,” it said, adding: “The Secret Service is currently investigating the incident.” The incident led President Barack Obama to call for drones to be more closely regulated.

Obama told CNN commercial and recreational drones, which can now be bought for as little as $40, are not really regulated “at all.”

While most are used for recreation, the authorities fear drones could also pose a safety risk or security threat. “The drone that landed in the White House you buy in Radio Shack,” said Obama.

Obama also noted that Amazon is among those companies mulling the commercial use of drones, unveiling plans to use the devices to deliver packages.

“There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife,” he said.

“But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”

“So I’ve assigned some of the relevant agencies to start talking to stakeholders and figure out how we’re going to put an architecture in place that makes sure that these things aren’t dangerous and that they’re not violating people’s privacy.”