The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating a drone that was sighted flying near commercial airplanes at Newark Liberty International Airport, The Associated Press reports.
The drone was reported by pilots on four commercial airline flights that were between eight and 13 miles away from the airport and flying at an altitude of lower than 3,000 feet as they were preparing to land, according to the report.
The FAA is in the process of developing regulations for allowing a rapid expansion of the use of commercial drones in the U.S, but the proposed rules require drones to stay away from major airports.
The agency has faced tremendous pressure to approve such an expansion of nonmilitary drone use from companies such as Amazon, who have said the technology can be used to make speedier online deliveries.
Police and other law enforcement groups were also seeking approval to use the technology, and the FAA has investigated several drone incidents that occurred in conjunction with photography at college and professional sporting events.
Critics have complained about potential privacy violations from drone surveliance and aviation groups have raised concerns about interference with commercial airline flights.
The agency said last week that it has approved more than 1,000 drone flights while it finalizes the regulations that will allow for a widespread expansion of their use.
The FAA’s rules define small drones as devices that weigh less than 55 pounds and require them to be operated at heights that are less than 500 feet and speeds that are less than 100 miles per hour.
The regulations also call for drone flights to be limited to daytime hours and conducted only by U.S. residents who are older than 17. Drone operators are also prohibited under the FAA proposal from conducting flights that take the devices out of their line of vision — a big blow to companies such as Amazon that have touted the possibility of using the technology to conduct deliveries.
The rules make drone operators responsible for avoiding collisions with manned aircraft that are in the same airspace as the devices and prohibit drone flights that “fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.”