Maui News

VIDEO: Stranded Leilani Estates Man Instructed to “Follow the Drone to Safety”

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A drone response team monitoring a fast moving outbreak of lava within the Leilani Estates subdivision on Sunday night, used the device to lead a stranded resident to safety.

The team was planning to conduct mapping missions in the lower East Rift Zone to monitor lava flow advancement rates when they overheard radio transmissions that there was a civilian trapped at a home on Luana Street.

HVO volcanologist Wendy Stovall said the incident occurred during a rapid outbreak of lava that took out 10 lots in 10 minutes.  During a press briefing this morning, Stovall said the man was trapped between lava and a dense patch of forest.

According to officials with the USGS Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory, the individual was spotted and instructed to “follow the drone to safety.” The stranded resident began moving through the jungle toward Nohea Street, where the drone was hovering.


Flashlights used by the Department of Interior Unmanned Aircraft Systems Kīlauea response team could be seen on drone footage seeking out the stranded man as they rushed to his aid.

While he was making his way through the jungle, the UAS team was able to track him visually from the light he was using on a cell phone. That video footage was being live streamed to the Emergency Operations Center.

Information about his location was then relayed to the ground searchers and the team was able to make contact and guide the man to safety.


The team also provided live video and real time information of the flow’s progress to emergency officials in the EOC, who dispatched police and fire units to clear residents between Makamae and Nohea Streets to the north of Leilani Avenue.

The UAS team, field operations, and EOC worked the situation for 2.5 hours beginning at around 7 p.m.


*Video by the US Geological Survey and Office of Aviation Services, Department of the Interior, with support from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Live stream technology was provided by NASA Ames.


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