Drone operator cited for using unmanned aerial vehicle in no-fly zone

KAILUA-KONA — A California man was cited this week after allegedly flying a drone in a restricted flight zone to capture active lava flow activity in the Puna area, officials confirmed Thursday.

Huawen Wu, 38, of San Jose, was cited by a DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officer Tuesday night for loitering. The officer was checking barricades in Nanawale Estates when he spotted a red light in the sky. A short time later, he encountered Wu flying a drone in a restricted flight zone.

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DOCARE said 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 for follow-up.

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At the request of Hawaii County, the FAA placed a temporary flight restriction over a 5-mile radius of Leilani Estates on May 8. The county is in the process of requesting an expansion of the restricted area based on continued volcanic activity in the area. Unpermitted drones can interfere with emergency aircraft operations.

During the lower East Rift Zone eruption, only the U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaii Electric Light Co. and the University of Hawaii at Hilo are permitted to operate drones for the purposes of hazard evaluation.