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Gyrocopter pilot may have literally flown under the radar

Doug Hughes is a free man, but he faces charges that could put him in prison for four years
Doug Hughes is a free man, but he faces charg... 02:30

The man who flew a gyrocopter to the U.S. Capitol literally flew under the radar; that's what the Department of Homeland Security seems to believe. It's possible the gyrocopter wasn't high enough to be detected.

Several U.S. agencies are now reviewing their protocols after the stunt highlighted a well-known security flaw, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues.

Florida resident Doug Hughes flew his gyrocop... 01:11

Doug Hughes, 61, left the federal courthouse on foot after a judge banned the Florida postal worker from flying. He faces charges that could put him in prison for four years.

Huges managed to fly into restricted flight zones encircling Washington, D.C. without being stopped. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it has been investigating how that happened.

"The FAA is looking for your normal traffic patterns: flying up to 30,000 feet, coming in, approaches, departures from airports," former FAA spokesperson Scott Brenner said. "The Department of Defense is monitoring everything else, and especially in Washington where we have very restricted airspace, that's the primary responsibility for DOD."

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said it has ground-based laser lights that typically provide a visual warning to planes close to breaching the airspace -- surface-to-air missiles, and helicopters or jets make up the air defense system -- but it admits "detecting and tracking low, slow flyers ... is a technical and operational challenge." On radar, they can look similar to birds or weather patterns.

New technology, called JLENS, is being tested to detect smaller aircraft, but it won't be operational for a few months.

"Our systems of detection should have worked," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Missouri, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee. "If now somebody tells us that system does not pick up low flying objects, then we have to fix it."

In addition to the ban on flying any aircraft, the judge also ordered Hughes to stay away from Washington, except for visits to court.

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