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Drones will help UH Hilo study wiliwili trees

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    This file photo, courtesy the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, shows a wiliwili tree in Puu Lani Ranch on Hawaii Island.
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HILO >> Unmanned aircraft will help researchers study a struggling Hawaiian tree species.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo says the Federal Aviation Administration is authorizing the use of drones to assess wiliwili trees on the Big Island.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday the university is the first in the state to receive a certificate of authorization from the FAA to use unmanned aircraft.

Researchers will be able to help the state Department of Land and Natural Resources collect and analyze data on the struggling species.

UH-Hilo faculty member Ray Bedard says the approval will help expand the university’s research using unmanned aircraft. Bedard has been working to establish aviation-related courses at the college.

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