On Monday, an Alitalia pilot reported seeing a mysterious black drone flying above New York near JFK International Airport, which is one of the busiest in the world. Minutes later, another unidentified pilot reported a similar sighting of a black unmanned aircraft. The incident was first reported by ABC News.
Government officials are currently launching a multi-agency preliminary investigation which includes the Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI. The Joint Terror Task Force is also looking into the matter to see whether there are any travel or homeland security threats and risks.
The Alitalia pilot said he spotted a black drone 1,500 feet above ground near JFK International. In a statement, the FAA said that the pilot saw a "small, unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft" on final approach heading towards the runway at JFK. The Alitalia plane was on final approach about 1:15 p.m. when its pilot spotted the mysterious black drone about four to five miles southeast of the airport.
In a radio communication with the tower controller, the pilot said:
We saw a drone, an aircraft.
The pilot made the statement as he was making the final approach on one of JFK's runways. Soon after receiving the information, air traffic controllers shared the drone sighting with other inbound planes as a safety precaution:
Report of a drone aircraft; five-mile final; 1,500 feet. Use caution. Runway 3-1 right, cleared to land.
Other pilots operating aircraft in the New York skies responded to the tower warning by looking out for the mysterious drone. One Jet Blue pilot responded:
Clear to land. We'll look for the drone. We're slowing to 180 knots. Jet Blue 906.
However, the federal government has not released further information including where the drone headed after closing in on the runway. As of Tuesday, it is unclear whether the drone is a classified military or surveillance vehicle that needed to make an emergency landing.
Within the past year, the FAA has issued more guidelines on the use of domestic, police, surveillance remote-operated drones over U.S. airspace. However, some civil liberty groups are opposing plans that could infringe on Americans' right to privacy and improper search (through stealth domestic surveillance).
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