Drone bill could affect Maui missing women search

By Ann Sterling
Published On: Feb 26 2014 07:00:00 PM HST
HONOLULU -

The families of the two missing Maui woman are now turning to drone technology to look for their loved ones. But if some lawmakers have their way, those high tech eyes in the sky will be grounded.

A message on the "Mowatch missing person Moreira Monsalve" Facebook page begins with, "If anyone has a drone and would like to help us for a couple of hours..." It is the latest in the search for Monsalve, otherwise known as Mo, who has been missing since Jan. 12.

"I would think I am capable of looking at a space that you can hike. 2 or 3 people, it would take them a day. I can do it in five minutes," says Harry Donenfeld.

Donenfeld lives on Maui and owns multi-rotor Maui. He sells and uses drones and he is using his equipment to help look for Mo and another missing Maui woman Carly "Charli" Scott.

"In the case of Charlie Scott, we're looking over cliffs that are a couple of hundred feet straight down. Not accessibly by water, so the only way to get them is this way," said Donenfeld.

Unmanned aircraft systems, otherwise known as drones, are becoming a common site in Hawaii skies. But if Senate Bill 2608 becomes law, many drones will be grounded.

Donenfeld says that would be a mistake.

"If anybody out there is listening to me, please think with the thought of reason and don't shoot yourself in the foot because you're afraid," said Donenfeld. "We've created something that you can actually check your crops with, look for missing people, do search and rescue."

But some lawmakers say only law enforcement should be able to use drones. Part of their concern is spying. What do these high tech devices mean for personal privacy?

"If I type your name into the computer and ask Google who and where you are, I can look at your backyard for free. If I go to the street view, I can probably look through the windows of your house. It's all courtesy of Google," said Donenfeld. "These people want to know what happened to their loved one and they need answer."

The drone bill passed the Judiciary Committee and now moves on to a vote in the full Senate.

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