On Aug. 4, Los Angeles police said, the personal drone was spotted by the jetliner pilot as the remote-controlled craft was hovering about 10 miles east of LAX at 4,000 feet.
That would place it at an altitude outside Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for hobbyists' drones and also within the airport's Class B airspace, where aircraft need to have a transponder and two-way communication with air traffic controllers, federal officials said.
Last year, the FAA restricted drones from coming within five miles of airports.
The agency cited recent "reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people" in its announcement of the policy shift, which comes as federal officials are trying to determine how to regulate private unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace.
Los Angeles police learned of the drone when the airline pilot asked air traffic controllers if it was a police drone. The LAPD’s two drones are locked away in a federal building and have not been used.
Officials said the incident highlights concerns that better regulations are needed for the drones.
“Everyone is going to suffer because of a reckless pilot,” said LAPD Air Support Capt. Gary Walters. “You don’t expect to see one at 1,000 feet when you’re doing 130 mph going to an emergency call to the Coliseum.”
Police Department representatives are talking with FAA officials and local lawmakers about what can be done to bring existing laws up to date so they apply to drones, officials said.