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Drones over Kauai draw complaints

    Unmanned aerial vehicles being flown over Kauai have residents complaining that their privacy is being violated.

LIHUE » Cameras on drones have provided spectacular videos from Kauai, but residents are filing complaints when the unmanned aircraft fly too close.

In late May the Kauai County Council took a complaint from a resident who said a tourist flew a drone with a camera above swimmers and about 20 feet above the resident and a friend on a beach, county spokes­woman Sarah Blane said.

Richard Alao of Kapaa said he saw a drone over his house on three days last week. On one occasion it was flying at midnight, the Garden Island newspaper reported.

"We don’t know what they’re using it for," he said. "At that time of day, your thought would be they’re up to no good."

The unmanned aircraft has a spotlight that the controller can shine into yards and windows, Alao said, and he says his privacy has been invaded.

Blane said Alao is not the only resident with concerns.

The Kauai Police Department has received a few complaints, "and this appears to be an issue of increasing concern," Blane said in an email. "However, there are no laws currently in place for police to enforce."

Brian Gray of Gray Hope Productions, a video production company, said irresponsible users drive him nuts.

"They’re going to ruin it for the responsible owners," he said.

Flying over houses at night or sunbathers at a hotel pool is likely to cause problems, Gray said. He is waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to come out with new regulations so he can use drones commercially.

Recreational use of airspace by model aircraft is covered by the FAA, which generally limits operations for hobby and recreation flights to below 400 feet and within sight of the operator. Permission to operate is needed within 5 miles of airports and air traffic, according to the FAA website.

Derek Inoshita, a spokes­man for the state Department of Transportation, said there have been no reports or complaints about drones near Lihue Airport.

The FAA has granted exemptions to only a few companies to use drones commercially. The agency is drafting new regulations and expects to approve them by September.

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