The pilot of Alitalia Flight #608 yesterday spotted a small, black drone hovering around JFK International airport yesterday. The drone is about 3 feet wide, has 4 propellers, and was hovering around an altitude of 1,750 feet. The Alitalia airplane was about 3 miles away from landing on runway 31R when the unidentified drone came within 200 feet of it. This all occurred around 1:15 p.m.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently looking for more details regarding the unidentified drone and its operator. The drone is said to look similar to the Aeryon Labs “Scout” modeled drone in the picture above. John Giacalone, the Special Agent in Charge, stated, “The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us. Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew.”
This brings up the security concerns that the Government Accountability Office warned Congress about last year. A report submitted by the GAO stated that pushing for drones to become commonplace in the U.S. airspace could result in issues in privacy, security, and worse, GPS jamming and spoofing. One major issue brought up is that a lot of drones don’t have “elaborate on-board detection systems” which are supposed to help them avoid crashes in the air. Serious problems could incur if drones are allowed to be in the same airspace as airplanes.
The FBI is encouraging anyone with information about the unidentified drone to call them at 212-384-1000. Anyone with a tip will remain anonymous. Air traffic controllers have already warned other planes near the JFK International Airport about the drone spotting, but none have come across it yet. The FAA set a limit for drones, and remote-controlled airplanes, controlled by hobbyists to be only flown at a maximum of 400 feet, so whatever this drone was doing wasn’t legal.