Nightly News   |  March 05, 2013

FBI asks for public’s help in finding drone operator

While on a final descent into John F. Kennedy airport after flying in from Rome, the pilot on an Alitalia flight noticed a drone aircraft just 200 feet from the jet. It was black, no larger than three feet wide, and had four propellers. So far the owner of the drone still hasn’t been found. NBC’s Ron Mott reports.

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>>> when a passenger jet on final approach into jfk road the tower that they had just seen a drone in the skies near the airport, uncomfortably close to their aircraft. as you might imagine, it has raised a lot of concerns. the fbi is now involved. our report on this tonight from nbc's ron mott.

>> reporter: authorities say around 1:15 monday afternoon in the crowded skies over new york city , the pilot of al italia flight 608, on final approach to kennedy airport after a flight from rome, radioed an eye-raising fyi.

>> kennedy tower. we just saw a little drone.

>> i'm sorry. what did you say?

>> we saw a drone.

>> roger. what altitude did you see that aircraft?

>> about 1,500.

>> reporter: fbi describe ready the object as black, no wider than three feet, with four propellers passing within just 200 feet of the jet in airspace under air traffic control . the fbi stays does not suspect terrorism and is asking the public's help in finding the unmanned craft and its operator are.

>>> it is the kind of threat that could be a threat to the aircraft in the future, similar to a lot of the laser pointing incidents we have heard about these things haven't yet caused harm but don't want to wait to the point where they do cause harm.

>> reporter: plane landed safely and did not need to take evasive action to avoid collision, the faa confirmed.

>> the risk is substantial. you have this object that can impact the plane and do significant damage to the wing structure or the cockpits, incapacitate a pilot. the list list of things that could go wrong terribly quickly is really very endless.

>> reporter: the federal government allows hobbyists to fly the aircraft up to 400 feet and law enforcement is using them, which has raised some privacy concerns. but as their use grows, so do worries about air safety .

>> the drone, slowing to 180 knots, jetblue 906.

>> reporter: increasingly popular technology finding its way into unexpected and potentially dangerous territory. ron mott, nbc