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FBI probes unmanned aircraft in near miss

New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on October 31, 2012
New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on October 31, 2012. US aviation authorities said Tuesday they had opened an investigation into a pilot's sighting of a small unmanned aircraft in the air near New York's John F. Kennedy International Airpo

The FBI said Tuesday it was investigating a reported close shave between an airliner and an unidentified, unmanned aircraft in the approaches to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The FBI said the Alitalia airliner was about three miles from the runway on Monday when the pilotless craft passed within two hundred feet (61 meters) at an altitude of approximately 1,750 feet (533 meters).

"The FBI is investigating the incident, looking to identify and locate the aircraft and its operator. The unnamed aircraft was described as black in color and no more than three feet wide with four propellers."

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Alitalia pilot reported seeing "a small, unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on final approach."

According to the FAA, the location was approximately four to five miles (six to eight kilometers) southeast of the airport at about 1,500 feet.

It added that the pilot did not take evasive action and the Alitalia jet landed safely.

"We saw a drone, a drone aircraft," the pilot can be heard in a radio communication to the control tower, picked up and disseminated by the website

Drones used by law enforcement agencies, among others, are increasingly common in US skies. Powerful model airplanes are also available to private enthusiasts, although the FAA requires operators keep the devices lower than 400 feet (122 meters) and to notify airport authorities when less than three miles (five kilometers) away.