AP Exclusive: Reports of drones flying near manned planes and airports are up dramatically

Federal and industry officials say the government is getting near-daily reports — and sometimes two or three a day — of drones flying near airplanes and helicopters or close to airports without permission.

It's a sharp increase from just two years ago when such reports to the Federal Aviation Administration were still unusual.

The officials say many of the reports are unconfirmed, raising the possibility that pilots may have mistaken a bird or another plane in the distance for a drone. But other reports appear to be credible.

The officials agreed to discuss the matter only on the condition that they not be named because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

The president of a drone industry trade group, Michael Toscano, says FAA officials have verified the increase to him.