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FAA: Encounters Between Drones and Pilots Are Way Up in 2015

Dangerous encounters between drones and planes are on a sharp rise, according to new statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration.

In all of 2014, there were 238 reports of pilots of small and large aircraft seeing drones in the sky. This year there have been 650 sightings -- and that's as of only August 9. The 650 figure doesn't include, for example, a close call on Wednesday in which a drone nearly hit a medical helicopter carrying a snake-bite victim to a hospital in Fresno, California.

The FAA warned in an alert this week that "operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal" and that "unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time."

Drone Nearly Crashes Into Medivac Helicopter 2:04

In California's San Bernardino County, officials are offering a $75,000 reward for information on the drone operators responsible for flying near three wildfires, including one that jumped a freeway to destroy 20 vehicles and four homes.

Related: First FAA-Approved Drone Delivery Drops Medicine in Virginia

While drones have become cheaper and more accessible in recent years, FAA regulations surrounding their use are still evolving. One concern is that a drone could be sucked into a jet engine. Recently, NBC News learned that none of the major jet engine manufacturers have tested their equipment for that scenario.

Look, Up in the Sky: FAA Prepping for a Drone-Filled Future 2:13