Big Island rancher says helicopter hijacked his drone

Big Island rancher says helicopter hijacked his drone


MOUNTAIN VIEW, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) – Daryl Soares lives on a five-acre ranch in Mountain View on the Big Island. He tends to a 30-acre spread next door. His Phantom 2 drone was his security camera and eye in the sky.

“Sometimes stray hunting dogs come on our property.  We have hunters hunting pigs on the property next to us,” he said.

Soares’ property sits under a flight path for tour helicopters.

“We can get anywhere from one- to two-dozen flights a day directly over our home,” he said.

He believes one of those choppers recently sabotaged his drone signal. He said on March 14, his control pad said he had no connection with his unmanned aerial device.

“When I looked up I saw the drone flying back towards me, without being controlled by me.  And it just kept going.  It could have gone another mile or so before it crashed,” he said.

Soares thinks a passing chopper pilot jammed his signal. Drone jamming is against the law.

“There are lots of web sites that talk about the ability for some of these types of drones to be hijacked,” he said.

P.J. O’Reilly works at Makani Kai Helicopters on Oahu.  He also owns and flies recreational drones.

“Our pilots have never seen a drone while airborne. I’m sure it happens. I know other pilots across the country have. But for a helicopter tour pilot to have their hands on that type of technology is extremely unlikely,” he said.

A drone software designer told Hawaii News Now the same thing, but did add that it’s possible a radio signal inadvertently interfered with Soares’ signal.

Soares  complained to the FAA.

“I could not explain it any other way,” he said. “It’s always come back home except this one time when the helicopter flew over. Now I have to invest in another one to once again patrol my property.”

As more unmanned vehicles occupy air space, Soares’ situation could set off other arguments in the debate over drones.