DLNR's drone use may have violated federal rules — on several occasions
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A drone that flew over a large crowd at the Onipaa Kakou event at Iolani Palace last week is now the subject of a federal investigation.
The drone belongs to the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, and was being operated by a state employee.
The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into the use of drone which was seen flying over the crowd of thousands — which is a violation of federal aviation rules.
Rule 107.39 prohibits flying an unmanned aircraft over people for safety reasons.
Paige Drummond and her husband David own UA Systems, which stands for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, a commercial drone company that filed for a permit to film the event.
Paige says, as a native Hawaiian, she wanted to use their company's drone to film the march to Iolani Palace and then provide the video for free to the public.
"I wanted to show my children and future generations that all of us kanakas can come together and be proud of our heritage," Paige said.
But their request for a permit was denied by the state film office less than two hours before the march was scheduled to begin, she said.
Paige went to march anyway and says she was surprised to see a drone in the air. She took pictures and video. "The drone could be heard whacking part of the trees," says Paige. She says at one point it was almost directly over her.
A spokesman for DLNR says organizers of the Onipaa Kakou event asked them to film. Dan Dennison says the drone was in the air for about 10 minutes and admits it flew over people, something the agency regrets.
Hawaii News Now has confirmed the matter has been handed over to investigators from the FAA.
But videos online show this may not be the first time a state land department drone has violated the same rule.
Video the agency posted last year shows a similar situation. It was taken on March 15, 2017 and shows a homeless camp along the slopes of Diamond Head State Park. The drone is directly above a group of people in the video. Days later, the state swept the homeless from the area.
DLNR says it spent about $2,000 dollars for the Model DJI Inspire 1 and in a statement described the use of the taxpayer funded aircraft:
"The drone was purchased primarily for resource management purposes, particularly for providing high-res aerial photographic recording and mapping of archaeological sites and other park features. It has also been deployed for post wildfire evaluation, for monitoring of illegal campsites in closed areas, to provide scenic imagery for our webpage and media releases, and occasionally to document special events in the Parks, such as the First Day Hike at Kaiwi."
Dan Dennison, Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources.
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