The FBI said in a news release Tuesday it is looking "to identify and locate" the unmanned aircraft -- described as black in color and no more than 3 feet wide with four propellers -- and its operator.
The Alitalia pilot was heading toward runway 31R around 1:15 p.m. when he reported seeing a small, remote-controlled aircraft about 3 miles southeast of the airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The pilot, in an exchange with air traffic controllers, said, "We saw a drone, a drone aircraft," according to a recording from the website, LiveATC.net, which monitors such feeds.
The FAA said the pilot saw the unmanned aircraft at an altitude of between 1,500 and 1,750 feet, and that he did not take evasive action. The unmanned aircraft came within 200 feet of the plane, which landed safely, the FAA said.
Late Monday, an FAA spokesman said the incident is being investigated for any violation of altitude rules that govern flight of unmanned aircraft.
The FBI asks anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact special agent in charge John Giacalone at 212-384-1000. All calls will be kept confidential.