Man Cited for Using Drone Above Lava Flow

May 31, 2018, 4:12 PM HST (Updated May 31, 2018, 4:12 PM)

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) reports that a 38 year-old San Jose, California man was cited by a DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officer on Tuesday, May 29, 2018, for loitering under Hawai‘i County code. The DOCARE officer was checking barricades in Nanawale Estates when he spotted a red light in the sky.

A short time later he encountered Huawen Wu flying a drone in a restricted flight zone. DOCARE reports the man was on Nanawale Boulevard, and then took Forest Road where he allegedly set up his drone at about 9:30 p.m. to get aerial photography of an active lava flow.

The case is also being referred to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for follow-up.  At the request of Hawai‘i County the FAA placed a temporary flight restriction (TFR) over a five mile radius of Leilani Estates on May 8.  The county is in the process of requesting an expansion of the TFR based on continued volcanic activity in the area. Unpermitted drones can interfere with emergency aircraft operations.

During the East Rift Zone Eruption only the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Hawai’i Electric Light (HELCO) and the University of Hawai‘i-Hilo are permitted to operate drones for the purposes of hazard evaluation.


The attached video is of a UH thermal drone deployed last night over the lava flow that crossed Highway 132.

UH Drone at Highway 132, May 31, 2018 from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.



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