NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Pilot reports of drone sightings so far this year are more than double last year, the Federal Aviation Administration reported Thursday.
There have been more than 650 reports this year by pilots of unmanned aircraft flying near manned aircraft, according to the FAA. There were 238 drone sightings in all of 2014.
The reports come from pilots of a variety of aircraft, including many large airliners.
There were 16 drone sightings reported in June 2014, and 36 the following month. This year, there were 138 reports from pilots flying up to 10,000 feet in altitude in June, and 137 reports in July.
Firefighters battling wildfires in the West have been forced to ground their operations on several occasions after drones were spotted.
Earlier this week, crews on four commercial flights spotted a drone while preparing to land at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. None of the pilots were required to make evasive maneuvers as a result of the sightings. The planes were between 2,000 and 3,000 feet in the air and eight to 13 miles away from the airport.
The FAA generally restricts drone flights to beneath 400 feet and at least 3 miles from an airport.
Flying a drone “anywhere near” an airplane can bring criminal charges and fines up to $25,000, according to the FAA.