An unmanned aircraft came within 200 feet of a commercial plane in the skies above New York City, leaving federal authorities questioning its origin. Alitalia Flight 608 landed without being forced to make evasive maneuvers, shortly after it encountered the drone Monday afternoon.
The FBI and Federal Aviation Administration are unsure how the drone came to be in the airspace, and are conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the incident.
The pilot of the Alitalia plane labeled the unmanned aircraft as a drone, warning air traffic controllers of its presence via radio. However, a statement from the FAA did not identify the aircraft as a drone, and said that authorities are still working to locate it. Reports from the FBI described the aircraft as black in color, and three feet wide at most.
“The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us,” Special Agent in Charge John Giacalone said. “Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew.”
Drone technology has come under increased scrutiny in the last month, specifically the authorized use of the unmanned aircrafts to target American citizens. The Obama administration has agreed to release legal memos documenting the U.S. drone program, which had been a major point of contention in the confirmation of John Brennan as the new CIA director.
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee had questioned the legal basis for authorizing drone strikes against American citizens believed to be terrorists.
Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) acknowledged the White House’s commitment to transparency, and Brennan was confirmed Tuesday afternoon. While the legal justification for drones is examined, others are calling for more disclosure from the president.
“This is an important first baby step toward restoring the checks and balances between Congress and the president, but it isn’t enough,” Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU, told USA Today. “Amazingly, the Obama administration continues to hide at least some of its legal opinions, even from the intelligence committees.”